Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Reboot: Wizardry V

I decided to go with a "good" party this time.

Wizardry V is fresher in my mind than either Sentinel Worlds or Star Command was when I "rebooted" them, but it's still been over three months, and I really couldn't remember what was going on in the game when I last left. I'll keep my maps, but I'm going to start over with a new party.

This new party, incidentally, is my permanent party. I'm done with this swapping-out characters nonsense. It takes too long. From now on, if any of my characters dies and the resurrection turns him to ash, I'm re-loading. I'm also re-loading if I suffer a full-party death. Even typing that, I cringe. Somewhere, I can hear Andrew Greenberg laughing at me. "You may win the game," he's saying, "But you won't have truly beaten me! Bwu-hah-hah-hah!" Screw you, Greenberg. 1980 called; they're looking for their graphics.

My party comprises three fighters, a thief, a priest, and a mage. I spent a lot of time rolling and re-rolling until everyone started with a bonus score of at least 20. That wasn't enough to make the first two characters a lord and a samurai, which is what I wanted, but their stats were just on the cusp of what they need for those two classes, and I planned to switch them after a few level-ups increased their stats.

Jack basically needs one more of everything to be a samurai.
If you don't remember the plot, it takes place beneath the Kingdom of Llylgamyn. A rogue sorceress named The Sorn has created an "unnatural, magical vortex" deep within the dungeon called Maelstrom, and she has imprisoned the Gatekeeper, a demi-god who is our only hope of stopping her. I have to make my way down to her level and find some way to free him.
Advice from a priest whose god is named "La-La."
Unlike the first few games, which were fairly straightforward dungeon crawls with the occasional inventory puzzle, Wizardry V relishes multi-level puzzles involving goofy characters. For instance, I had to buy a rubber duck from some giant called the "Mad Stomper" on Level 3 so I could return it to a character named the Duck of Sparks on Level 2 in exchange for a wand that I need...somewhere, I guess.
Sigh. Could you at least pretend you're an entry in a seminal CRPG series?
The puzzles chain together. In a long day of playing yesterday, I:

  • Visited a tavern on Level 2 and got a clue that I needed to search a room for a hacksaw; found the hacksaw.
  • Got a recipe for a "Spirit-Be-Gone" potion from the Duck of Sparks.
  • Used the hacksaw to cut the chains off a door leading to a lab.
  • Mixed the potion in the lab.
  • Used the potion to scare away a ghost guarding a chest.
  • Found a jeweled scepter in the chest.
  • Used the scepter to enter a temple on Level 3.
  • Fought and killed the temple's guardian, winning a blue candle as my prize.
  • Used the blue candle in front of a dead-end wall to find a secret door leading to a set of stairs.
  • Descended the stairs to find myself at a place called the "Jigsaw Bank & Trust," where I now have to manipulate some disks something open the vault, maybe.

My current puzzle.
I don't yet have any clues about the right disk order, but I'm sure I'll find something in some unexplored part of the dungeon.

Unlike the linear progression through the levels of the first Wizardry, this focus on puzzles requires you to frequently backtrack, often finding new sections of previously-explored levels. As I indicated in my December postings on the game, the levels are quite large. Level 1 alone took up 30 x 39 coordinates, although the game doesn't use every space. At least, I don't think it does. Some of the secret doors have taken multiple searches, and I don't have time to search every blank wall multiple times.

I think I'm done with Level 1, but you never know when a new staircase or portal is going to make use of some of this filled-in space.

Blackadder and Jack Burton eventually got their lord and samurai class changes, although I didn't realize the game resets all your attributes to 8 when you change classes. That seems a little unfair. But the two prestige classes get spells (priest and mage, respectively), which makes it worth it.

Changing from a fighter to a lord.

I elected not to adventure with a bishop (a combined priest/mage) this time. The major advantage to this class, other than the spells, is the ability to identify unknown gear. Identifying items costs as much as their sale value, which gets into the tens of thousands of gold pieces for some magic items. Fortunately, reader Jonesy, who commented on my original Wizardry postings a few months ago during his own replay, gave me an idea: create the bishop, but have him just sit in the tavern. Swap him in when I need to identify something, and then boot him out when I'm done.

"Identifier" prepares to get to work on a load of unknown items.

This has worked out fairly well, but items have a chance of instilling fear in the bishop trying to identify them, a condition that prevents any further identification until cured. In some ways, his services have been more of a hassle than they're worth.

At this point, my characters are a couple levels below the last party I played in my December-February bout, but I've explored more of the map and solved more of the puzzles. I'll pick up from here with more detailed descriptions of the gameplay.

As I prepare to finish exploring Level 4, I have one mystery: On Levels 3 and 4, I encountered several pools of water that gave me the option to swim in them, and at multiple levels each.

In a comment in December, Delmoko tried to explain these pools to me, but I'm not getting anywhere with them. My characters keep drowning in the pools, which is a huge pain in the neck, because I have to haul them up to the temple for healing. Delmoko suggested that there were stats increases in some of the pools, but all I've managed to find are damage, poison, stat reductions, and encounters with monsters. Do these pools really serve any useful purpose? Can I just ignore them?

Finally, I think we might have a new entry in the "Most Annoying CRPG Enemies" list. Their name says all you need to know about them:

Nothing like watching a $6,000 platemail +1 disappear in one bite.

Despite my barely-disguised disdain for the silly NPCs and plot elements, I had a reasonably good time building up my characters and re-exploring the first four levels of the dungeon. Things go a lot faster when you're not continually rolling and building new characters, nor dealing with full-party deaths. I want to try to bang this out in a week. I have big plans for NetHack.


  1. PetrusOctavianusMay 30, 2012 at 9:26 AM

    "I decided to go with a "good" party this time."

    Heh, your RPG Codex fan club? :-)

    1. I didn't expect someone to get that right away.

    2. Just about anyone who's been to the Codex would recognize that set of names.

      - Giauz, enjoying the greatest gift a mobile device can offer

  2. "This has worked out fairly well, but items have a chance of instilling fear in the bishop trying to identify them, a condition that prevents any further identification until cured."

    I never got past the first Wizardry game and I'm I didn't. The Wizardry series seems rather sadistic. Hey, we'll let you identify items for free now! Oh, but for some unexplained reason, doing so much terrify the identifier, which will cost you money. Gotcha!

    Want to use a more powerful class? Sure, but your character is now slower, dumber, and weaker than he was before for another unexplained reason. Gotcha!

    1. I should have mentioned that entering and exiting the dungeon "cures" fear, though, just like poison. So it doesn't cost anything; it's just annoying.

  3. Errgg, cool post, but work....must read at lunch....

    *sigh* My new Quest for the Magic Candle post is up: Smaller, as wordpress hated that last one, and because I need to work.

  4. As much as Wizardry V seems like it will be a font of frustration, I'm kind of happy to see you return to a fantasy-themed CRPG, my favorite genre.

    I wonder if there are hints placed anywhere as to what to do with the pools. If there aren't, then that's a particularly cruel puzzle.

    Congrats on abandoning your No Reloading policy. I think it's okay to have that exception for this game since it punishes you so dearly for dying. Maybe there's hope yet you will catch up to 2009: I just discovered the old-school-inspired 2009 CRPG, Knights of the Chalice, and I think you'll like it if you like Pool of Radiance's challenging tactical combat.

    1. Since I posted that, I found one that had a key on the bottom level. So now I guess I have to try every level on every pool, no matter how many times this exploration requires me to resurrect my characters. Freaking game.

  5. "I have to make my way down to her level and find some way to free him."

    No, don't fall into evil! Stay good Addict, stay good!

  6. I was thinking this game sounded fun until I read: "Some of the secret doors have taken multiple searches, and I don't have time to search every blank wall multiple times."

    Also I map with graph paper and that could cause annoyance when I dont know how big the dungeons are going to be, which will force me to redraw several times.

    1. I'm just adopting the expedient of assuming I'm not missing any secret doors unless I completely get stuck somewhere.

    2. That would be one argument for using Excel to make my maps -- as much as I like using pencil and paper myself.

  7. I've always wanted to play the Wizardry series, and always looked to the Wizardry series as a bastion of what gaming should be. Your blog posts on the series have given me a complete 180 on both of those feelings I used to have. I don't look up to the series any more (in fact, I have very little respect left for it right now), and boy I sure do not look at it as a bastion of anything except nightmares and bass-ackwards gaming. Give me the MM series- that seems to be awesome from the word go. And it is- I have played 4,5, 4+5, and 6. Just need to go back and do 1, 2, and 3 then 7 and 8 and 9. What an order!

    Thank you for being who you are Chet. Thank you.

    1. PetrusOctavianusMay 30, 2012 at 12:18 PM

      Try Wizardry 6 - Bane of the Cosmic Forge.
      Much improved graphics, an interesting story, and when changing class a characters' stats are only decreased to the minimum requirement of his new class or to the basic values of his race, whichever is higher.
      Of the years 1988 to 1992, 1990 was IMO the worst year for CRPGs, with lots of mediocre games and few good ones. Even the Gold Box games of that year were among the weaker ones, so for me Bane of the Cosmic Forge is GOTY 1990.

    2. To be fair, the early entries were absolutely seminal CRPGs. Hell, even JRPGs owe a great debt to Wizardry, as Dragon Quest was based directly on Wizardry and Ultima (combining elements from both, while creating a much simpler product for the console mass market).

      The fact that it took four sequels to signal any kind of awareness of the outside world is troubling, but you can't deny the importance of the series.

    3. I can't deny the importance of the first Wizardry, for sure. It prompted Richard Garriott to program the "party" concept into Ultima III, and it directly inspired the Might & Magic series, among other things. I do deny the importance of the rest of the series, though. I think the Wizardry series accomplished almost it's entire legacy with the first game--at least as far as the I-V go. I haven't touched VI-VIII, and they might have influenced other games in ways that I don't realize.

    4. The Wizardry games are also much more fun than the Addict's experiences from I-IV if you allow re-loading. (Even at the time I knew Might and Magic and the later Ultimas were better games, though.)

  8. PetrusOctavianusMay 30, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Chet, earlier I suggested you declare a Game of the Year for each year you play, but you misunderstood and thought I was talking about the years that you play the games, not the years the games were published.

    Now that 1988 is almost over, perhaps you will reconsider my idea?
    If you'd declare GOTY's for the years 1985-1988, which games would it be?

    1. You're right, I did misunderstand. Thanks for clarifying.

      To make it non-obvious, though, I'd probably have to not simply go with the highest-rated game that year. I'll think about it. I am planning to do a 1988/1989 transition posting when I finish W5; I'll consider naming GsOTY for the previous years then.

  9. There is a huge difference between Wizardry 1+2+3+5 and Wizardry 6+7+8.

    1. As a child in the later 1980s and early 1990s, and new to RPGs in general, I found Wizardry I absolute torture - confusing, beyond difficult (moments of total sadism), and simply unfun despite all its innovations. Many years later, I picked up Wizardry 7 dirt cheap somewhere, with great trepidation... but was enormously rewarded, as that is a game whose atmosphere I still remember to this day. Yet none of them really compare to Wizardry 8, my favorite of the series, and a game I have played and replayed about 4 times in total.

  10. "From now on, if any of my characters dies and the resurrection turns him to ash, I'm re-loading. "

    Good. I understand that you really dislike re-loading. But for me it seems equally if not more gamey and borderline cheating to have lots of spare characters to fetch those that die. But that may be me. I like doing lots of reloads so that all encounters goes the way I want them.

    BTW. Great blog! I am currently going through the archive. You are a productive fellow, so it will take a while I think. :)

    1. It isn't so much that I hate reloading as that I want to play the games at their intended level of difficulty. I wouldn't go and create a new character every time one dies in Skyrim because the creators never intended such a thing. In the Wizardry world, though, the fact that the game constantly saves your character state in town means that getting ashed during resurrection is intended to be permanent.

      I actually was using a euphemism when I said "reload" for this game. What I really mean is "restore the backups of the save file that I make every time I enter the dungeon." This is worse than simply "reloading."

      Anyway, glad to have you as a reader. When you get to January 2012, there's a bunch of nonsense that you can ignore.

  11. Ah, that explains it. If you restore backups I also agree that is a bit too much cheating. But I as a reader prefer that you progress with the game rather than getting stuck, bored and abandon the game early.

    I actually began reading sporadiclly last year sometime, but just now have begun to read in earnest.

  12. Im playing through a couple Wiz games off and on at the moment. (6 in DOSbox, 2 on the NES, 5 on the SNES.) I was trying a full Wiz 1-3 run using the Japanese Win 9x port but the translation forgot to fix the Malar spell and I was unable to pass the first floor of Knight of Diamonds and had a Total Party Loss, losing weeks of play and some amazingly buffed characters. (Good Ninja with all Priest Spell Levels! Starting Samurai!) Its why I am doing 2 Wizzes on the console emulators. No total wipeouts and I can reroll level ups and chargens using glorious savestates as opposed to playing it the way the game intends. Can't do that for Wiz 6 which is why I am spending more time playing Genesis action games ported from the Amiga right now. (I guess abusive UK action games are less frustrating than abusive American RPGs?)

  13. I do remember getting a slight slap on the wrist from one CRPG-addict for using save states to grind my way through MM1.... :-)
    You do sound sincerely contrite, but I think it's good you allow yourself this amount of leeway. There's a difference between outright cheating and countering an insane perma-death scheme that a game throws at you. And I think I speak for a lot of your blog-fans when I say that a. you suffered enough already and b. we definitly don't want to see you burn out yourself on one game (and we all know that that can happen to us gamers)
    Maybe you should append your rule 6 a bit to allow for these circumstances. Have fun!

    1. There are several ways you could "cheat" at this game. In order from forgivable to unforgivable, I'd say:

      1. Reload when a character is permanently killed (e.g., turned to ash)
      2. Reload when you suffer a full-party death
      3. Reload when a single character dies in the dungeons
      4. Reload every time something happens that you don't like (e.g., a thief steals an item; you don't get the attributes or hit points you were hoping for on level-ups)

      I put them in this order because you can't recover from #1 without creating a brand-new character. You can recover from #2 but only with significant effort (i.e., create a new party and have them "find" the old one). 3 and 4 are only annoying.

      Unfortunately, the most forgivable way to cheat requires backups of the save files because the game saves instantly when you're in town and something happens to one of your characters (e.g., gets turned to ash).

      If I gave you grief about save states (and I realize you were mostly kidding), I was wrong to do so if they were the only way to deal with a problem like this. It's the REASONS for re-loading that matter, not the specific MECHANISM for re-loading.

    2. I'm still voting that you should use some version control software. I like mercurial myself, so you can right click on the save folder, hit backup, type "Level 8, returning to town' and back things up. Then later you can go back to any point to try things out, test bugs, kill Lord British and so on.

    3. Can you learn me to use Mercurial? I kinnae understand the tutorial, and ye make it seem so useful...

    4. I'm not a good person for that, doubley so via comment on his blog. I could try to skype you through it I guess.

  14. "Blackadder and Jack Burton eventually got their lord and samurai class changes, although I didn't realize the game resets all your attributes to 8 when you change classes."

    Actually, they should reset back to your race standard.

    Regarding the pools: Buying another rubber duck and equipping it on a character makes him less likely to drown. And yes, there is important stuff in them. Most levels give bad effects, but there is a certain pool that can heal you comepletely and certain ones that might highen your stats. Also, some have plot related items in them (usually coming with an encounter). It's another one of Wiz5s many item searching annoyances to search each level of each pool for the few of them that don't have bad side effects and are actually beneficial/needed to advance.

    1. "Buying another rubber duck and equipping it on a character makes him less likely to drown."

      I can't decide if that's awesome or asinine

    2. I didn't realize that the first rubber duck did this, let alone that I could by another one. Thanks for the hint.

      Raifield, I'm leaning towards asinine.

    3. Please write it down if there's even one genuinely funny joke.

    4. I'm leaning towards insane. 0_0

  15. We have brought up the book idea on so many different posts that I don't feel bad about bringing it up again instead of finding an old topic.

    In the past you have said what holds you back is the thought that you would have nothing new to offer in book form and that no one would really be interested in said book. While following the successes and failures of many kickstarter projects and it hit me today that would be a good way for you to see the amount of interest in you writing a book, and generating the funding to do so.

    The goal of this post is to plant the seed deep enough in your mind to grow and bear fruit :-)

    1. The thing is, unless CRPG Addict generates quite a bit of additional content to the book, it may not sell that well. Word will get out that one can read all the material for free on this blog. Unless, of course, he deletes the posts that are included in the book. That would make quite a few sad pandas out there.

    2. That's why I think kickstarter would work. He will basically be pre-selling copies of the book, and will know roughly how much revenue it would generate before he devotes the time and effort into it.

    3. The problem is putting a book together is a lot of work; It would take me several weeks of evenings and weekends to compile this blog into printed form using LaTeX (which I know pretty well), even if I had all the source images sorted by post already.

      Double that if if I want to change anything, such as add in posters comments as marginalia, format the Addicts old blog entries to the same standard as his new one and so on.

      I'd be willing to do it (The challange sounds intresting, and I've got a fair bit of extra time these days) provided I didn't have a hard deadline and was paid (a cut of the profits; we are talking about a hundred hours of work or so), but it would take a long time.

      Now remeber, I already know LaTeX. If the addict wants his book to look good he is going to either pay someone (like me) or learn something like InDesign or LaTeX.
      Or, if we all wanted to chip in, I could make up a template that you just copy-pasted the text and file names of his blog posts into, then use a master file to compile them into one document. Then people intrested in helping out could each do a blog post or two. Many hands, light work and all that. I could probably do something like that for a free copy of the final book, or at least a very small cut (Depending on how much work it turned out to be, and if it was a straight copy or needed lots of editing and enhancements on each entry).

      Anyway, what I'm saying is that it would be a lot of work, and even if he went POD and thus risk-free, there isn't much point if he doesn't think he will make money. I think POD is a better way then Kickstarter as whle he will get less per book, he isn't limited to print runs, so he can keep getting money over time. DriveThroughRPG/RPGNow (Owned by OneBookshelf) has pretty good POD terms, and very good B&W print quality. I can also link you to some comparisons of them and Lulu if anyone wants.

      Also; If you are intrested Chet I could probably make up a sample post from your blog, so you could see what it looks like formatted as a PDF.

      --Canageek, posting from a computer he doesn't trust with his blog or email passwords.

    4. Kickstarter could certainly prove whether there was interest in a book, but I don't think it's a good idea to use it for that reason. The purpose of the service is to generate capital for something that you need capital for. I don't need any funds to write a book. And if I did it, I'd feel like I was taking on an obligation.

      Canageek, I really appreciate your willingness to help. But I'm with Amy on this: I just don't see what I could offer in a book that isn't already on the site. (And Amy, I would never delete material on the site for that purpose.) It would just be a re-packaging of exiting material. If I had any original ideas that could go into a book, I think I'd just rather write them as blog articles.

      I'm not completely closed to the idea; I just need a compelling reason. Why would a printed book offer anything better than my existing blog? What would I put into it?

    5. Kickstarter does not handle things like printing, shipping, etc. They are strictly an interface between someone with a project they want to fund and people who would like to fund it. Print on demand is thusly not mutually exclusive with Kickstarter. Indeed, it's probably the best bet for delivering print copies for backers unless you already have ties with a printer for large scale production.

      Also, Chet, while you may not need funds to write any prospective book, you would presumably need them to produce and distribute physical copies of said book. Kickstarting that sort of thing is perfectly legitimate. People also commonly use it for "ransoms" where they pledge to make something they've created available freely in electronic format if they're provided with a certain amount of up front financial recompense. (Greg Stolze's done a fair amount of this.)

      I'm not entirely sure what a printed book would offer over your site, but print collections of blog postings are not unheard of (I own one that collects Neil Gaiman's early online journal entries surrounding his signing tour for American Gods, and I believe my mom has a couple from a knitting blog), and if enough people want one...

    6. I actually derive a decent chunk of my income from POD books that I sell through CreateSpace, an Amazon subsidiary. If you can create a camera-ready PDF, it's only a few hundred dollars to offer the book through this service. That's probably what I'd do. But I still need a compelling reason to churn out a dead tree edition of the CRPG Addict.

    7. Wait, how large print runs are you doing? o.0 You'd have to sell a *lot* of copies of your book to earn that back.


    8. The whole point of POD is that you don't pay any up-front costs for printing. When someone orders one of my books (usually through Amazon), they print it up right then, and at the end of the month, I get a check for around 40% of the sale price. Once you write the book, it's no-risk.

      I get the impression that CreateSpace makes most of its money in up-front costs from authors who never sell more than a few copies. But I have a bit of a niche market (as I would if I sold a CRPG book) that I can easily reach, so it's a perfect solution for me.

  16. I love how identifying items has a chance, for some INEXPLICABLE reason, to scare the ever-loving shit out of a bishop.

    I just have this image in my mind of the party approaching the bishop, just carrying a pair of gloves or something. They casually toss it to the Bishop, as politely ask if he can figure out what they do. "Sure thing!" he says, picking up the gloves to take a look.

    Suddenly, his eyes widen. "What's wrong?" one of the party members ask, but there is no answer. He continues to stare at the glove, his eyes widening even further. His mouth slowly opens and he lets out a strange, low noise that soon transitions into a never-ending scream.

    The other party members stare in horror as he throws the gloves to the table and covers his eyes. They try to get him to calm down, but to no avail. Eventually, after some shenanigans involving items and magic, they finally get him back into the realm of sanity.

    "Good god, we thought you went mad!" The party leader says. "What the hell was on the gloves?"

    "The Gloves?" the Bishop says. "I... I don't know... Let me take another look at them." He quickly raises them again for another glance before the party has a chance to protest. "Oh, they've got fire resist on them," he says, tossing them back to the party. "They're probably worthless, really. Have fun out there."

    1. Have you read the Dresden Files books? Imagine if to identify the gloves the Bishop has to open his site to the Astral. He does so, goes to take a look at his gloves and realizes there is a Lovecraftian horror right in front of his face.

      Ahh, what was the Lovecraft book on that topic? About the guy who built a machine to see into the places humans normally could not?

    2. "From Beyond", I believe.

      But combining Lovecraftian stuff, maybe bishop consult their holy book to for reference. Necronomicon holds all the answers...

    3. Zink, I doubled over laughing at this. I was reading it on my iPhone on the street, and everyone was staring at me like I was a madman.

      The best part is, when the bishop fails to identify the item and subsequently gets AFRAID, the alert is: "YOU TOUCHED IT!" Apparently, people trying to identify magic items are supposed to keep their hands off. I got a picture of a drill bishop at bishop school.


      My bishop apparently flunked out.

    4. Okay now that just raises the question of how it doesn't freak people out when they're, well, wearing it.

      (Also I'm using my google account now because SHENANIGANS, so yeah if you see "Zinkraptor" around, it's Zink).

  17. I think the Bishop is supposed to get better at identifying as he levels up, so the fear problem might be less of an issue if you grind him a few levels before stashing him in the tavern.

  18. Huh, knowing that wiz7 is great, and that wiz6 was decent, I came hear to figure out if I should play 5. Looks like a bit NOPE.

    Thanks for being the canary, even if it hurts.


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