Friday, December 26, 2014

Revisiting: Wizardry: Scenario #3 - The Legacy of Llylgamyn (1983)

I have a few reasons for returning to the wireframe halls of Wizardry III. The most obvious is that I didn't do a good enough job with it the first time, nearly five years ago, when I spent only the minimum required time on the game before getting frustrated with its character creation process and permadeath. I was still adhering quite strictly to my published rules, and it had only been a couple months prior that my party stepped over the corpses of dozens of failed colleagues to win the first Wizardry. Exhausted at the idea of going through the same process with the two sequels, I abandoned both the second and third scenarios in quick order. Later, I went back and re-won the first game and completed the second, in both cases by allowing limited backups of the party roster.

When I first played through the series, I lacked any sense of history. Now, with almost two decades of CRPG titles in my rearview mirror, I have a greater appreciation of Wizardry's status as a founding father of an entire CRPG line (including the Bard's Tale, Might & Magic, and Dungeon Master branches). Yes, Wizardry itself borrowed or plagiarized many of its elements from PLATO's Oubliette, but Oubliette owes its existence to Moria, which owes its existence to even earlier PLATO games, and ultimately it all goes back to Dungeons & Dragons (or even further, some would argue). It's a rare game, novel, movie, or other work of art that doesn't owe some of its elements to some progenitor. Wizardry still occupies a landmark place in the history of CRPGs, if nothing else as the first multi-character game.

The party in town. The names of the businesses don't change all the way through Wizardry V.
I also have a greater appreciation for how well Wizardry still works as an RPG. It is essentially the first game to have all the elements of a modern RPG in their most primeval forms: exploration through an environment, a main quest, tactical combat, a fully-realized spell system, a big variety of foes, role-playing decisions, and character advancement through both leveling and inventory acquisition. For these reasons, it is (at least for me) the earliest RPG that can still effectively satisfy the RPG craving. I gave Wizardry a 37 on the GIMLET scale. The average of every game before it was 19--nearly half--and no game came close to touching it until Ultima III came out in 1983 and ushered in the Golden Age.
The Wizardry series was the first to introduce this combat mechanism, in which each character decides on an action, and they execute (along with the enemies' actions) all at once. This dynamic continues through The Bard's Tale, Might & Magic, and Wasteland.

It's therefore been fun to re-visit Wizardry every couple of years and contrast it with whatever games I'm currently playing. In this case, it's particularly interesting to contrast it with the recently completed Dragon Sword, which does a reasonably good job copying Wizardry's interface and mechanics. In making this contrast, I've developed a much greater appreciation for the pacing of a game--a quality that doesn't really exist in my GIMLET except for a minor consideration in the "gameplay" category. When you distill a satisfying CRPG into its most basic elements, what you have is a reasonably regular system of challenges and rewards. "Challenges" include not only combat but also the more unpleasant aspects of RPG playing, like drawing 20 squares on a piece of graph paper, or spending 5 minutes hauling your party back through a map you've already cleared, or working out a logic puzzle. These things are work, and every once in a while you expect to get paid. Such "rewards" include literal rewards like gold and equipment upgrades, but also things like character advancement, uncovering the next plot point, or even seeing an interesting graphic. Until you've played both in a row, it's hard to appreciate just how much two tiny differences--the ability to save anywhere and the overwhelming frequency of random combats--make Dragon Sword a game I'll never play again and Wizardry a game I'll find a way to revisit again and again for the rest of my life.

Nothing in Wizardry is very sophisticated in content, but it still manages to get the challenge/reward ratio about right despite--and this is the key--being extraordinarily difficult. You fail a lot of the challenges. Characters die. If you're playing it "straight," you have to start over a lot. And yet you still feel a compelling sense of accomplishment at regular intervals, whether that comes from a level-up (which accompanies almost every return trip after an expedition), a new piece of gear, a special encounter, or some random message on the floor.

Graphically, the Wizardry series is very much "tell" rather than "show."

The difficulty is, of course, a key part of the Wizardry experience. You've heard me blather on about it repeatedly, but I think it's still worth emphasizing, because we've utterly lost it in modern RPGs except perhaps in the rare case of a Dark Souls. By including permadeath, but disallowing traditional "saves," and by offering no ability to restore spells while in the dungeon, each of the first three games maintains a marvelous sense of tactical tension. Each step feels like a risk. You find yourself carefully weighing whether to map a few more squares or start heading back to the surface for a refresh on spell points. There's a palpable relief when you get back to the castle and know you're temporarily safe. There are hard individual battles, yes, but the real difficulty comes from the accumulation of battles--the slow whittling down of your hit points and spell slots. A battle doesn't have to be hard to be ruinous; it just has to be unlucky. A die roll goes bad and a character gets decapitated. Unlike most games, you don't have the option to reload, so with a sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach, you bring him up to the surface and try your luck with a resurrection. Another die roll goes bad and he turns to ash. Raised on modern RPGs, you find yourself unable to believe that that's the end--that there really isn't any other way out of the situation.
Death is frequent and not even paid resurrection is guaranteed. This one failed.

To achieve the same tension in modern games, you have to purposefully delay saving. I was playing Fallout: New Vegas about a week ago, traveling the interminable canyon path between Jacobstown and Red Rock Canyon. The place has so many cazadores (giant mutated wasps that will definitely make my "most annoying enemies" list when I get to 2010) that it's crazy. I had plenty of ammo going in, but towards the end I was reduced to fighting with a BB gun and a tire iron. I kept thinking that I'd finally killed all of them, but then I'd round the next bend and there would, unbelievably, be three or four more. As the likelihood of death increased in proportion to the expenditure of my ammo, I was continually cognizant of the fact that a quick, simple save would ensure that I didn't lose all of my progress. Preventing myself from doing that was a Herculean feat, and I really wish developers would make that decision for me, like they did in this early era.

Wizardry admittedly goes a bit too far, particularly in the second and third scenarios, when death is not only permanent, but creating a new character means firing up the original Wizardry, creating him, and importing him into one of the sequels. (Neither II nor III has an internal character-creation process.) III is slightly better in this regard, since imported characters are supposed to be "descendants" of the I or II party members, and thus start the game at Level 1 no matter what level they were in the previous game. Starting over in II, on the other hand, meant trying to survive the advanced dungeons of that game with a Level 1 party or spending time re-building a character in the first game just so you could import him into II at a higher level.

I paid my dues winning Wizardry straight, burning through dozens of characters before defeating Werdna with my umpteenth party, so I don't feel compelled to adhere to such difficulty in III. Instead, I'm following the same rules that I use when playing a modern game like Skyrim or New Vegas: set my iPhone timer for 30 minutes after each save, and don't allow myself to save again until it goes off. In the case of Wizardry III, that means allowing myself to back up the scenario disks. It still maintains a lot of the tension, but with slightly less disastrous consequences.

Just about time for a reload.

Scenario #3 is explicitly not a sequel, but rather the second of two expansions to the original game, but later entries in the franchise kept the numbering system as if it really was Wizardry III. The gameplay is so unchanged from Wizardry that its section in the Ultimate Wizardry Archives manual is only 4 pages, all describing the back story and the import process; all other mechanics and spells are the same as the original.

As for that back story, again we see that story-telling wasn't Sir-Tech's strong suit. If the era is famous for trite "kill the evil wizard" plot, Sir-Tech is famous for nonsensical embellishments on it. The game nominally takes place in Llylgamyn, the same setting as Wizardry II. A generation of peace and prosperity followed the recovery of the Staff of Gnilda and quelling of the rebellion, but now the world is threatened by an inexplicable increase in earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, and other natural disasters. To determine the source of this new evil, the city's leaders have asked the party to find the Orb of Earithin, a powerful scrying stone hidden deep in the lair of the great dragon L'kbreth.

Each imported character goes through a "rite of passage ceremony."

The party members are explicitly given as the descendants of the victorious Proving Grounds and Knight of Diamonds adventurers. After importing the characters from the previous games into Llylgamyn, they have to go through a process of "legation," which is presented as a kind-of blessing from the ancestor to the descendant. The descendant keeps the name and attributes of the original character but is re-set to Level 1, gets only 500 gold, and can re-select an alignment. They also keep the symbols that indicate whether they won the first game and what role they had winning the second.

The ">" indicates Gideon won the first game; the "G" is Gnilda's symbol for his retrieval of the pieces of the Knight of Diamonds. I don't know what the "D" is about. Everyone has it, even the character I just created.

My party had finished Knight of Diamonds alive, but as you may recall, my thief had accidentally been changed to a lord by a Ring of Metamorph. I needed someone to disarm traps, so I jettisoned him and created a new thief character to join this party. (Later, I realized it would have made more sense to keep the lord and get rid of one of my two fighters.) After that, it was off to the equipment shop to buy the standard gear (500 gold per person was more than enough) and into the dungeon!

Checking my old "WIZ3" folder, I was pleased to find that I already had all of Level 1 and much of Level 2 mapped, so I could concentrate on character development during the first stage of the game. This is good, because the hardest part about this game is surviving Level 1. Each character's 8 hit points are easily obliterated by a single attack from some of the level's foes, and the 2 Level 1 spell slots allotted to the mage and priest barely help. I spent most of the first few hours reloading from my save disks when my characters died (easier than creating new ones), and saving at every successful combat after the iPhone marked the 30-minute point. Eventually, I was able to stabilize the party at Level 4.

Thank La-La for the KATINO (sleep) spell. Almost everything is susceptible to it. Unfortunately, a Level 1 mage only has two of them.

The first few Wizardry games have several quirks that are worth remembering:

  • When you find items in treasure chests (which is rare), they are usually unknown, annotated with a question mark before their names ("?ARMOR"). Unless you want to pay Boltac to identify the items back at the trading post, you have to have a bishop in the party. In Wizardry V, I created a bishop but kept him in the tavern, swapping him into the party only when I wanted something identified, but it didn't work well because the bishop really needs to level to identify things successfully. In this party, I have a bishop.
  • Bishops are one of four "prestige" classes offered by the game. The others are lords, samurai, and ninjas. It's very hard to create characters of these classes because they require high attribute values and you'd have to get very lucky during character creation to get enough points. Theoretically, you can switch to these prestige classes later, once you level up and increase your attribute scores. The primary advantage to the bishop, other than identifying items, is that he can cast both mage and priest spells.

Paul prepares to identify a bit of clothing.

  • When leveling up, there's a good chance that you'll lose points in some attributes while gaining in others. In fact, it appears to me that every attribute has basically a one-in-three chance of increasing, decreasing, or staying the same. This makes it very hard to ever get enough points to switch to the prestige classes. This may only happen in the DOS version; I'm not sure if we've ever come to a solid conclusion on that.

I'm so glad I leveled up.

  • The series is the first I know to offer the mechanic, now somewhat commonplace, by which you can hide the command options and status windows while exploring the dungeon, theoretically creating a deeper sense of immersion as you explore.
  • Equipment-based improvements are very slow in the early Wizardry series. A +1 weapon or armor is an advanced piece of gear; +2 is epic. I'm not sure +3 even exists.
  • If you want to find equipment at all, you have to open chests. Only a thief has a chance of disarming traps on the chests, but he often fails. This was responsible for an accelerated ending the first time I won Wizardry.

Lone Wolf identifies the wrong trap.

  • When you first encounter a group of enemies, there's a chance that they'll be friendly. If they are, and you attack, there's a chance your party (or just some members) will become evil. Conversely, if your party is evil and it declines to attack a "friendly" bunch, there's a chance that they'll become good. See this post for one of the consequences of this.
  • When you enter combat, there's a chance that you surprised your enemy or that they surprised you. The party that surprises the other gets a free round of attacks. Oddly, if your party is the one surprising, mages can't cast spells in that first round.

Level 1

Level 1 of the dungeon (or tower; the levels work upwards instead of downwards) is dominated by an area shaped like a castle with four turrets in the corner. The castle is surrounded by "moat monsters" who provide a reliable 50 experience points each and were responsible for a lot of my grinding, particularly since they were susceptible to the KATINO sleep spell. Near the entrance to the level is a "lake" with an island that I can't reach. I'll have to check it out later when I have the MALOR spell.

Inside the castle are repeated fixed encounters with "Garian guards," who would be reasonably tough except for their tendency to run away in the middle of battle. At least one such group drops a pouch of gems every time I defeat them. I don't know if this is a quest item or just something to sell.

Why?! You're winning!

The castle culminates in a message from L'Kbreth that "neither good nor evil alone can triumph here." This is an indicator of the game's little gimmick: some levels are only accessible to some alignments. I don't know if the entire party has to be of that alignment, just a majority, or just one of the characters, and I don't know how the game treats neutral characters on those special floors. Beyond the message, however, are three staircases, two of which kick my entirely good-aligned party (save one neutral thief) back to the town. The third one lets me up to Level 2. At some point, I'm going to have to create new characters or somehow switch the alignments of my existing ones.

This is about as far as I got in my first attempt to play Llylgamyn back in 2010. Shortly after this, my entire party was killed, presumably on the last square I mapped of Level 2, and I gave it up. I look forward to finishing it this time. It might take a few weeks and a few posts in between MegaTraveller and other games.


  1. Good luck with this one! I played it back in the day and never beat it. Although I think I was at a point where I could have beaten it but my characters were, apparently, too stupid to figure it out. Totally my characters' fault.

  2. I'm glad you did this.

  3. I have never played a Wizardry game apart from Wizardry VI, and have never finished one. Some day I will manage to bring myself to play the big series to completion. Back then I finished Ultima's 1,2,4,6 and 7, Might & Magic 1-5 (I think) and Bard's Tale 1+2. I tried to finish BT3 but was running away from too many encounters so that I came to a point where I would have needed to grind, which was a concept I probably didn't understand back then.

  4. No, I don't think I like games that 'offer' permadeath. Frustration as a feature ? Thank you very much.

    1. I guess it's a feature for more 'professional' players, people for whom 'gaming' is not just something you do to relax, but a serious activity. They need the extra challenge because they are experts. I somewhat regret not being one of them, I would like to have the dedication and the time, but too many other things are fighting for my attention. I just saw it for myself while trying to play Wasteland. I failed a couple of times very quickly and had to check beginners' hints on the internet (make characters with the highest IQ). Then I had to realize that each single word of description is necessary to get ahead. Then I had to realize that combat offers relatively few options, and that there is no room for error. There is just one save slot, so a mistake can easily lead you into a dead-end situation. I put the game aside for now and chose to play through the Dragon Age series. Tons of options, a good quest log, several difficulty levels, you almost cannot lose. I guess the more honorable thing to do would have been to restart Wasteland again and again, to really reserve several hours of the day for just this one game. I actually have the time, but I simply didn't have the focus.

    2. You have to think of it less as "frustration" and more as a "challenge." Playing a game that lets you save everywhere is like playing a board game against someone who is deliberately trying to let you win. Maybe that's fun for children, but once you realize what's happening, your victory just seems hollow.

    3. Problem is I have a finite and pretty limited amount of time I can dedicate to gaming. If a game forces me to replay the exact same bits over and over because it doesn't allow me to save, there's a very fine line between a game that feels challenging and a game that feels like it's wasting my precious time.

      And as far as saving goes, I'm the polar opposite of you: I wish game devs would stop making these decisions for me. Of course, I have no problem enforcing MY OWN limits, depending on the difficulty of the game. I have a problem when other people enforce THEIR limits on me :)

      - Drăculea

    4. If the gameplay is good it shouldn't matter that you replay the same part more than a few times. Trouble is games have warped into these carnival rides were the gameplay is secundary.

    5. Funny thing you should say that, seeing how 15-20 years ago pretty much every PC game allowed you to save at your leisure and now more and more PC games feature checkpoints which force you to go back to some arbitrary previous location every time you die.

      And it's not as if killing the same 30 enemies is gonna get more engrossing the ninth time around, because "gameplay"

      - Drăculea

    6. Since I grew up with nothing but saveless console games in which you had to meet the punishing difficulty or restart anew, and nowadays I mostly play NetHack, I find it difficult to get really upset about save restrictions in mass-market games intended principally to be played by minors with oodles of free time.

    7. For me it depends on the type of game. Something like Nethack or Wizardry you're playing for the tactical/strategic challenge. Being able to just reload the game until the RNG (Random Number Gods) decide to smile upon you rather defeats the purpose of the game. (Not that I don't do that sometimes, it's rather like playing chess against a grandmaster, but being allowed to roll back the game. If you beat him, it doesn't count for much, but you sure can learn a lot from all the ways you lose.)

      Something like Dragon Age I play for the story. Having to start such a game from the beginning every time you hit a spot of bad luck prevents you from getting to see the story. Having to repeat five minutes of dialog before a boss battle that you have no way to back out of and need to try a few times to find the right strategy also mostly just keeps you from getting to see the story. There have been a number of these kinds of games that I have gone and watched playthroughs of instead of finishing them myself because the gameplay was annoying, and all I wanted was the story. I've learned to be wary of games that brag about how many hours of playtime is necessary to beat them: Often as not a substantial portion of that playtime is spent watching the same, unskippable cutscenes...

      Picking the wrong dynamic for the type of RPG (or other game for that matter) leads to flops. I have seen a few, however, that can be played for either set of elements and where the designers were wise enough to let the player choose which way to go. System Shock is one such where the difficulty levels for the different types of challenges the game offers can be set independently.

    8. Since I got into Roguelikes about 15 years ago, I've gotten more and more into Permadeath until I struggle to play an RPG that doesn't have it now.

      From my standpoint, non-permadeath games are all about grinding and tedium. There's no skill in them at all... if you put in enough time, you are eventually going to win unless you get stuck on a puzzle or can't find something. And replaying the same encounter 5 or 6 times until I win, or running through half an hour of game that I've already done... it's like chewing broken glass.

      I've never really considered myself a 'professional' gamer, but maybe that is a good way of describing it. I like the tension. I like the feeling that I've built a very tall house of cards and it can come crashing down if I mess up. And after gaming for 30 odd years, I'm not going to get that sense of tension unless I feel that I have something to lose.

      I'll also add that a lot of games expect you to save scum and therefore make the challenges next to impossible, or put you in unfair situations where you'll almost certainly die the first time you get there. Developers of permadeath games don't have that luxury. They need to get the challenge right and usually do.

    9. Peramadeath seems bad for modern RPGs: Say I'm 80 hours in to Baldur's Gate, decide to wander into an area too high level for me (which is a thing in that game) and BAM I have to spend another few MONTHS scraping together time to get back to that point. Or Skyrim where you are trying to 100% the map and slip and fall trying to take a shortcut.

      Or, like when I was playing The Witcher. I dead ended myself through bad dialog options, or at least cut off a lot of the game. Luckily I never reuse a save slot, so tossed away 20 hours of gameplay.

      Likewise I never had safe file corruption issues in Fallout 3, which WILL happen if you reuse save slots.

    10. I agree. I wouldn't condone permadeath for long modern games, but I would like to see more consequences to death. Some examples would be:

      -You can only save every 20 minutes
      -Every time you die, you have to wait 15 minutes before you can reload
      -Every time you die, you have to fight your way through a special (small) "hell" level before reloading
      -Every time you die, you loose X experience points upon reload

    11. Dragon Age 1 had an interesting system. If you die, you can keep doing, but take a wound, which makes going on harder. The problem I had was I wasn't very good at the game, so would take a lot, which steadily increased the difficulty. Also, you couldn't grind for cash in that game, so I'd waste huge amounts of money on bandages.

  5. I have never bothered to try a game with permadeath because I know I would get frustrated by it, but like your idea of saving only every half an hour a lot. There are two games where I think they got the difficulty and tension spot on. The first is the game you mentioned in this piece, Dark Souls, where you might lose max a half hour of progress, but it seems to hit the sweet spot where I am always frustrated when I die, but to the point where I try again with renewed vigor instead of quitting. The other game I quite liked was Hitman: Blood Money, where i think the hard mode allowed you two saves per mission, allowing you to choose when to use a save when you think it is worth it. It wouldn't really work in an rpg as they don't have missions but i always thought it was a good solution to offering that tension without the rage of permadeath.

    The polar opposite was Bioshock, a game that, despite an interesting story, bored me to tears because you instantly respawned when you died and the enemies even maintained their health levels. I think I killed a big daddy just standing there shooting it next to a respawn station while dying three times and decided that the game was pointless and quit.

    1. The Vita Chamber can be disabled in Bioshock (although apparently this wasn't a choice in version 1 but was added to version 1.1).

  6. In case you don't know the early Wizardries were designed with CGA graphics in mind, which is why things look pink instead of red. If you change the video card in DosBox to CGA you'll get nicer looking graphics.

    Regarding difficulty, personally I found Wiz 1 and especially Wiz 2 rather easy, but then I'm one of the 'professional' players Mr. Schulz mentioned above. I only had two party deaths, and only had to restore once when playing those two games.

    But Wiz 3 is more difficult for several reasons:
    1. Not as well balanced.
    2. Stats seem to have an even higher chance of decreasing then they did in Wiz 1-2.
    3. Beginning stats are capped at 15, which is a big deal, since only stats of 16-18 give any bonus, and you really, really want you VIT to be 18 in order to maximize both amount of Hit Points and chance of resurrection.

    Wiz 3 is certainly the most _interesting_ of the three first Wizardries, and it will be interesting to see how you handle some of my "favourite" parts.

    1. I'm not sure about the later games, but Wizardry 1 also supports the oft-forgotten Hercules graphics mode. I came across it while trying Wizardry on an old 8086 and an amber monochrome monitor. The text is far, far more readable.

      DOSBox does a pretty crap job of emulating Hercules graphics, but Wizardry is simple enough that not much is lost. Graphical games like Sierra's early adventures, are nearly unplayable with DOSBox, but looks pretty good with an actual Hercules card and compatible monitor.

      God, I'd love to have an amber monochrome monitor again. Thing was clear and relaxing to use.

    2. Thanks for the tip on the graphics. It does look a little better.

    3. It's more readable on a Hercules graphics adapter because that series of cards was designed for better resolution and crisper imaging. Sadly, they had to sacrifice color in order to do it, but, essentially, not needing separate red, green, and blue phosphor dots let them get three times the pixel density. They were very popular for word processor / print layout stuff where clear display of things was more important than color.

      (I spent a lot of time playing CGA and VGA games on a Hercules card. Took a TSR to adjust the graphics on-the-fly. The two I had were called "simcga" and "hercvga", but there were probably others. )

    4. I got stuck with a Hercules card+monitor for a year (1989-1990 I think) after our EGA monitor blew out (overheated when someone put the Epson MX-80 printer on top of it). I became intimately familiar with simcga, although a surprising number of games had native support for it.

    5. Interesting bit about CGA; I learned something new about it today. :) EGA and VGA are backwards compatible with CGA, which is why CGA-only games just work, but there *is* one thing, according to Wikipedia, that EGA and VGA can't do from CGA: the so-called "palette 3" (black, white, red and blue). They can only do the other palettes (black, white, red and blue, and black, yellow, red and green). This is why the Wizardry games can only use the color red with just CGA. I wonder how many more games like this exist...

    6. That does solve the mystery. I was wondering why a VGA setting would prevent correct display of CGA graphics.

    7. In addition EGA/VGA can't do "composite mode". A true CGA adapter would have a composite output which could be hooked up to a TV or composite monitor. The result was you could produce about 16 colours by using NTSC artifacting in the same way the Apple II does. You can see an interesting demonstration here:

  7. It's always worth mentioning (and I think I may have mentioned it here before, but maybe not) that Wizardry's influence is not limited to the Western world. The earliest JRPGs (to the extent that you could even call Wizardry the first JRPG) are deliberate imitations of the Wizardry games with the perspective moved to top-down (which necessitated removing the spinner and teleport navigation puzzles) and a better (for certain values of "better", as neither the first Dragon Quest or the first Final Fantasy are exactly pinnacles of storytelling) story integrated into the system. It's incredible that this one rather primitive (in display and interface, at least) series had global impact.

    1. Yeah, Wizardry seems to have extended to a lot of other RPGs, and still seems to be fondly remembered.

      I recall reading an article regarding a Japanese dungeon crawler that referenced the Wizardry bishop's "you touched it!" line (I think this blog was mentioned too). A game needs to have one heck of a legacy for references to survive, especially when translating between different languages. I might try looking for the article in question later.


      And here is the article. Feel free to remove the post in case it infringes the rules since it's only tangentially related to Wizardry and has a link to another site and it may be considered advertising (though that isn't the intent).

    3. Ha! That article actually uses my blog as its source.

    4. It makes even more sense once you know that the Elminage games are by Starfish, who did the japanese only Wizardry Empire games. So they stayed with what they knew.

  8. I beat wizardry 1-3 in the 80s playing on my Apple II+ and each was triumph for me. Wizardry 4-5 crushed me mercilessly and I never got close.

    The main issue I had with wiz 3 is the time sink they imposed. I'm not sure it's explained so I won't spoil the annoyance.

    1. I did the opposite! I never beat 1-3 but beat 4 and 5 (and the rest). I played Wiz 1 relentlessly though without really caring about killing or finding Werdna. I would just keep taking the elevators to Level 8's three rooms after the long corridor to earn experience and find new magic items.

  9. Another thing is the chanceof stats decreasing. I mean, what the f..? That doesn't even make sense ! Intelligence loss caused by too many blows on the head or what ?! Get the poor guy a helmet !
    Maybe that makes the game more challenging for the pros, for me, it's just
    a nuisance. Or it would be if I had the nerve to play the game.

    So this game was either made for a small group of hardcore roleplayers...or maybe the programmers had still had to learn a lot about
    game design.

    1. I remember back in the eighties playing on the Apple IIe that stats nearly always rose, and in no time you'd have 18s across the board. They only dropped rarely and I think they tended to drop more often as your character aged due to recuperating in the cheap rooms which took many months to heal everybody. It was always easier on the body to rest the priest in the stables and let him slowly Dios everybody back to good health. Seems maybe the PC version screwed up the leveling process?

    2. The DOS version of Wizardry does indeed create a problem with your characters' statistics. They are just as likely to go down as they are to go up, whereas, as Lizard pointed out, the Apple version was more likely to treat your people more kindly. The DOS graphics are easier on your eyes, but it's not worth the cost!

    3. The manual says that the quality of the inn only affects the hit point restoration. Lizard's comment made me think that maybe it affected the likelihood of gaining/losing attributes, too. I would have been horrified if this was true, but I just checked it out, and it seems to make no difference.

      I don't know whether the PC quirk is a bug or a deliberate change. A lot of people online seem to think it's a "bug," but without confirmation from the developers, there's no way to know for sure.

    4. "So this game was either made for a small group of hardcore roleplayers...or maybe the programmers had still had to learn a lot about game design."

      Sigh. The cry of the human brain locked in 2014 with no ability to think outside the box. Wizardry III was made in 1983. There weren't "gamers" back then. And I love the sneering comment about the fact that the programmers weren't aware of what would be considered a good RPG 32 years later.

    5. He said roleplayers, not gamers.

    6. Wiz1 was developed slowly over more than a year, with the devs showing each successive iteration to their college friends. That's why the difficulty curve is so high: they were making a game while getting feedback from people who already had a deep knowledge of how to play it. Upon release, certain players loved the game for its difficulty and replayability. Why? Because they were avowed gamers, that's why!

      If you think that there weren't self-conscious gamers in 1983, you've proven yourself too young and ignorant to make claims about the era. Gamers have existed since Pac-Man and Space Invaders.

    7. "So this game was either made for a small group of hardcore roleplayers...or maybe the programmers had still had to learn a lot about game design."

      Sorry, I don't often make posts like this. But I had to laugh at this comment.

      Maybe we have a different idea of 'small group'. You do realize that you're talking about one of the most popular and influential RPG's of all time, right?

      I think the programmers understood a little about game design, too. There have probably been dozens of attempts to plagiarize this game, and many of the ideas you see in modern games can trace their source back to the old Wizardry games.

      I mean, I get this style of game isn't for everyone, but you could make a fair statement that these early Wizardry games are to CRPG's, what Beethoven or one of the other great classical composers was to music. Even if you don't like it, you can't seriously dismiss it as crap.

      I agree with the gamer comment. I don't know if the term 'gamer' was out back in 1983, but I would certainly have identified with the concept. There were plenty of us back then.

  10. I've beaten Wizardry 1-3, 5 and 6. If you can beat Wizardry 4, you belong in some kind of roleplaying hall of fame. My biggest problem with Wizardry 3 is the good and evil premise that allows only certain alignments to certain floors. Neutral can go either way - so it's best to make as many characters as you can neutral. It doesn't make the game any more difficult than the first two, it just makes it annoying in my opinion.

    Also, I never play with a thief because they are too crappy of a fighter to take up a spot in the first three members of the party. Level 1 chests aren't really worth opening because the loot stinks and they're VERY deadly for low level characters to have the traps go off. By the time you reach level 2 of the maze you should have the spell CALFO that x-ray's the chest and will tell you for certain what the trap is. I then use my fighter with the highest luck and hit points to open the chest.

    I don't use Bishops either because they gain spells so slowly and their experience needs past level 4 or 5 are far greater than non-elite characters. Usually later in the game, when items are worth identifying I will create a Bishop and take him out and get him to level 5 or 6 with a few high experience point battles. Then I will grab him after each romp through the dungeon to identify the items I've recently picked up.

    Other than the Bishop, the only other elite member it is possible to create off the bat is the Samurai. If I remember correctly, you should use a Gnome and you need at least 17 or 18 bonus points. Whenever I play a new party I will take the time to make sure I have at least 1 Samurai in the party to start with, if not two. My usual party consists of 2 Samurai, 1 fighter (they generally get higher hit points upon making a level and can use ANY weapon), 1 Cleric and 2 Mages. Of course this is open to interpretation.

    I am very glad you are going back to revisit the Wizardry series! Keep up the excellent work!

    1. I think you're right about the thief. Saving those CALFO slots isn't worth dragging around a useless fighter. I think I'll grab that accidentally-created lord from the last game and use him instead.

  11. Chet, glad you got back to Wizardry. For some reason I have a strange fascination with these games even though they are mostly just map-making puzzles with combat, rather than RPGs. I've been busy the last few months but I want to play through Wizardries 1-4 (and maybe 5 after that) without any spoilers and I will try to make my own maps. And I'm going to do it on the Apple 2 versions because I think the balance is better (or just easier?) on them. Example, from my small sample size, in the Apple 2 version you only have an 11% chance of losing stats on level up, rather than 33% chance in the DOS version. And you can use magic spells when you surprise monsters in combat. Also, the combat seems easier maybe? I haven't played too much, just grinded my characters on levels 1-3 of the dungeon and they are all about level 6 now but I have not had 1 party wipe yet, only 1 character turned to ash, my thief disarms the traps I'd say about 90% of the time. Maybe combats get super hard starting on level 4 but so far the game is quite doable. So some of the things you describe seem odd and they either made a mistake during the port or just decided to ramp up the difficulty for whatever reason. But the Apple 2 version is SUPER SLOW and the dungeon window is SUPER TINY.

    Also, I think the plots of Wiz1 and 4 have some charm to them. Wiz1 is not a "kill the bad guy" plot, it's really "one bad dude stole something from another bad dude and you have to run an errand for the 2nd bad dude." And if you read the backstory to Wiz4, it's pretty cool and Werdna has a funny personality.

    1. I'd try the Apple II version, but I have horrible luck emulating save disks, so I'm afraid I'd resort to just using save states to save my progress. But once you start using save states in a game like Wizardry, it's really easy to abuse them.

      I agree with you about W4, at least. My comments were mostly about the first three games.

    2. I have been looking into this as well for my own Wizardry playthrough, and it seems that the DOS version is a later version of the Wizardry engine. Does that signify anything? I have no idea.

      I tracked 16 level ups and I can confirm against another player who was checking the Apple version that I level up skills much less in the DOS version-- is 16 level-ups, I only needed 9 skill points. (.5 or so per level) Even in the DOS version, you gradually get better-- but ever so slowly.

      The question for me is: "What is the author's intent?" Did Sir-Tech want to make the game harder when the DOS version came out? Was the Apple version not balanced the way they intended? Or was it a porting accident? I have not been able to find out and we may never know.

    3. Yeah the DOS version is an improved version of the engine. It uses the "windows" Wizardry engine (where the dungeon view takes up the whole screen and has windows of text overlaid on it that you can turn on or off). Wiz 1 and 2 on the Apple II used the original Wizardry engine that was written in Apple pascal and is really slow and relegates the dungeon view to a tiny portion of the screen. For Wiz 3, 4 and 5 on the Apple 2 they use the 'windows' engine that was used in all subsequent ports, but it is still slower than the DOS versions.

      I was actually thinking at one point of buying an Apple II and the original Wizardry games and playing it super old school, but I realized that would be hundreds of dollars, buying 35 year old games comes with the risk that the discs won't even work, and I don't know where I can buy blank 5.25" discs compatible with an Apple II (the scenario discs were physical discs on the original versions).

    4. "What is the author's intent?" is usually my question, too, which is why I was so determined to win the first Wizardry without making copies of the saved game. In this case, regardless of how the Apple II version treated it, I think the developers intended for some stats to decrease when leveling. Otherwise, all characters would have near-maxed statistics by about Level 8.

      As I'll discuss next time, I was slightly wrong to suggest that every stat has a 1/3 chance of getting worse, getting better, or staying the same. I think it's balanced slightly more towards improvement (the one screenshot I showed aside), with maybe, on average, two increases for every one decrease.

  12. Just got ahold of these, and before I venture into what I can only assume is the ultimate CRPG badge of honor, I had a basic question: Assuming DOSbox use, what is the best (and easiest way) to transfer your characters from 1>2>3??

    1. I suggest using the D-Fend Reloaded front end, since it's very easy to edit the game configuration without having to edit the CONF text file directly. Also use the Ultimate Wizardry Archives version of the games. D-Fend Reloaded will treat it as one game and store all info in one profile. All you have to do is change the Program File from WIZ1.COM to WIZ2.COM when going from Wiz 1 to Wiz 2.
      When you have won Wiz 1, make a copy of the SAVE1.DSK file, and start Wiz 2. After Wiz 1 Wiz 2 is quite easy, so chances are you'll never have use of your final SAVE1.DSK file, but better save than sorry. Same procedure applies when starting Wiz 3, but now it's much more important to have copies of the SAVE2.DSK file, since the start of Wiz 3 is quite brutal.

    2. I had problems getting the transfer to work until I bought the Ultimate Wizardry Archives edition, which makes it as easy as Brutus says. I don't know what the major difference is, but the non-UWA edition of W2 doesn't seem to find the saved game no matter where I put it.

  13. Hi Chet! This does and doesn't have anything to do with Wizardry. Well, it has nothing to do with Wizardry, but I hope you won't mind if I do this here.

    I have a Youtube channel, new and exciting! I'm 52, a widower, and silly as all hell- I gameplay videos, Let's Plays, silly skits and sketches.

    is the channel :) I primarily do Survival Sandboxes and things vaguely related to CRPG's. Right now one of the games I am Let's Playing is SanctuaryRPG-

    A fully text and ASCII game and a full and complete modern RPG with old-school feelings. Well worth it to play AND watch!

    I hope to see you all there!

    Back to your regularly scheduled Wizardry. Thanks Chet. I hope this is okay!

    1. I don't mind it. Best of luck with your channel.

  14. Glad to be back to Wizardry!! In my recent play-through of DOS Wiz3, I used the bishop at the castle option. I believe I did not have to level him up at all, only paying the slight cost of some item ID failures, even for high level treasure. I did avoid having to use a bishop in my party, making way for more full priests/mages. I did use a thief, since I was missing the experience from my "TRZP-exclusive" full runs through Bard's Tale I and II.

    Also, I believe the "dungeon" for Wiz3 is supposed to be a mountain that you ascend.

  15. Regarding some of the above comments in the differences between the Apple and PC versions of Wizardry...

    Some of you may not be aware that the "Apple-ish" version of Wizardry 1 exists for the PC. It has the same smaller graphics window, different (more simplistic) monster graphics, the same requirements that you rest at the Inn to recharge magic (just getting back to town won't cut it), it's missing a "Pool Gold" function, and it has the same algorithm for calculating skill increases/decreases as the original apple code did (i.e. a much stronger bias towards increases vs. decreases that exists in the later released DOS version or the one that's in the Ultimate Wizardry Archives).

    I first played this version at a friend's house on his PCJr. A year or so later when I got my own computer and bought the game the version I got was the one with the full screen graphics and such. I beat this version dozens of times over the past ~25 years, but always wondered about the original version. Nobody ever seemed to reference it and I couldn't find it available for purchase or download anywhere. After several years of searching I finally found it online. It was distributed as bootable floppies and someone posted them in a format that MAME can use. You have to pair it with a PC-XT bias, but with a modest amount of elbow grease (it took me about 30 minutes total) you can get it working.

    I finally beat this version and felt like I had really closed the loop on a game that I will probably play every year or two over the course of the rest of my life.

    I know Chet doesn't permit linking so I won't link to where you can find it, but if you use the keywords like "Wizardy 1" "IBM PC" and "Original Release" you should be able to find your way to it. I believe a similar PC version of Wizardry 2 exists, but I cannot find it anywhere.

  16. I believe there are Nintendo Entertainment System versions of Wizardry 1, 2, and 3. The advantage to Wiz 2 and Wiz 3 on the NES is that the player doesn't have to import characters from the previous game(s).

  17. I was pretty certain that the thief wasn't the only character class who could disarm traps. So I dug out the Pascal source code for Wizardry III and found the routine:

    IF (RANDOM MOD 70) <
    - 7
    ) THEN

    So effectively nobody but a Ninja or a thief ever has much chance of disarming a trapped chest. On level 10 a level 20 character (I don't think I ever had characters this high) has a probability of .04. Whereas a thief or ninja has a 54% chance.

    1. Ugh... A L20 ninja/thief on L10 would have a probability of ~0.76.

    2. Sorry, that should be a 75% chance. Which explains Steve's experience. [Level 6 Char] - ([Maze Level 3] - [7] + [50])/70 = 66%

  18. Reading this years later after grabbing the wizardry archives to play in my phone, and I must say I appreciate Lone Wolf and Grey Star making your character list.

  19. When I played through this (and the original trilogy in general), I made a save state if I made it safely back to town. It felt necessary for this one, it didn't feel as balanced as the first two, in my opinion. The first set of enemies in the game shouldn't be capable of doing 10 HP damage when that's most likely as high as you'll get at level 1.

    Sort of wished you tried the Apple II version revisiting this, for the sole reason that it's the only version of the game that had an actual storyboard type opening sequence to relay the backstory and objective of the game. It looks pretty darn good for 1983. I love seeing games on older systems execute telling a story, despite the limitations of the systems.

    It looks like this:


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