Thursday, January 1, 2015

Wizardry III: Good...Bad...I'm the guy with the MAHALITO

Never gets old.

Irene and I have an annual tradition of watching all three Lord of the Rings films over some Saturday or Sunday in December. This year, because of holiday scheduling and a desire to dig into Dragon Age: Inquisition, we delayed it until last Monday. While I like the tradition, there are only so many times you can watch a film--even if you space out the viewings by a year--before it no longer has anything new to offer. I thus spent most of the 11-hour session playing Wizardry III on the side. It felt oddly comforting, and I realized somewhere around the Battle of Helm's Deep that for three of the past four years, I've been playing a Wizardry game during our LOTR marathon. In 2011, it was Wizardry V, and last year it was the original Wizardry again. On a fourth occasion, I think back in 2010, I was playing Phantasie III. I've started my own sub-tradition within our tradition.

The early Wizardry trilogy is a good series to play with something else going on at the same time. It makes small demands on your conscious mind, especially when you settle in for hours of grinding before moving on to the next dungeon level. There is a case to be made that no truly good game would require this much grinding. While I still like the series for all the reasons I outlined last time, you'll note that none of the first five games get out of the 30s on the final rating. They all straddle the line between "recommended" and "not recommended" (which is around 35-40), which in this case you can interpret as "recommended for players of a particular disposition."

A couple of interesting foes from Level 4. Lions are scary enough as it is, but Lions of HELL?! Damn.
  
My Wizardry III sessions have been relatively predictable since the first post. Leave Llylgamyn for the dungeon. Fight my way through a bunch of fixed combats on Level 1. Get to the stairs to Level 2 with some fraction of my original hit points remaining (obviously, this part got better as I increased levels). If I got unlucky with those fixed encounters, return to the castle immediately via the teleporter right next to the Level 2 stairs. Otherwise, ascend to Level 2, map a few squares, and fight a few combats. When I reach about 1/3 of my original hit points and spell slots, retreat to the stairs and return to the castle.

Wizardry III is much deadlier than its predecessors, however, with a lot more random variability in the difficulty and number of monsters you encounter in both fixed and random combats. About half the time, my plan above failed, and I found myself reloading from my saved backup. I would never get through this game playing it straight.

Suddenly coming upon 13 enemies in an area that normally serves up only 5 or 6. At least I surprised them.

There was a change in cast along the way. I got sick of how useless my thief was in combat (the "hide" and "ambush" system wouldn't come along until Wizardry V), so I decided to go with Delmoko's suggestion of getting rid of the thief entirely and relying on the priest's CALFO spell to identify traps and then either ignore them or suck up the damage. To replace the thief, I grabbed my old thief-turned-lord from Wizardry II, renamed him, and put him at the head of the party.

Well, that lasted a single expedition. Even though I knew I wasn't missing out on a lot of great loot on the first couple of levels, I still hated leaving chests just sitting on the floor. Thus, I rotated the thief back into the party and got rid of the bishop. He now spends his days in the tavern, waiting for my party to return with objects for him to identify. (That system works better here than in Wizardry V, because the whole "you touched it!" dynamic doesn't exist yet.) I mourn the loss of the additional priest and mage spell slots that the bishop offered, but at least I got some more priest slots with my lord. It annoys me that I have to lug someone around whose sole purpose in life is disarming traps, especially since he so often fails at it.

Level 2 so far. I can't get to the blank areas yet.
  
About one-third of Level 2 ended up being inaccessible--I tested every wall for secret doors--so I can only assume that there will be a staircase back down from a higher level or I'll need to wait for the MALOR spell to pick up the rest of it. There is only one special encounter on the level--a riddle whose answer was painfully obvious...

  
...and there was one teleportation square to momentarily confuse mapping. The stairs up from Level 2 went to Level 4 rather than Level 3; I assume that to get to Level 3, I need to use the Level 1 stairs that require an evil party. (More on that in a minute.) I started to map a bit of Level 4, and I thankfully found a second staircase there that returns me to Level 1, on the other side of the "moat" area. While I still can't cross the moat, a nearby staircase teleports me back to the town if the party is the wrong alignment. It's nice to only have to worry about the "out" expedition and not the return.

My party is all Level 7-8 at this point, which means they have little to fear on Level 1. Level 2 is generally safe, but still capable of serving up the occasional battle with multiple large packs of foes just when I've run out of KATINO (sleep) and MAHALITO (fireball) spells. I generally try to run in such cases, but fleeing in this game is insidious because it resets all the fixed encounters on the level. It hardly ever works anyway.

Now that I've achieved a certain level, I can keep LATUMAPIC (identify) and MAPORFIC (protect) going for the entire expedition.
  
My sense is that at some point after Level 4, maybe right after, I'll need some kind of plan for transitioning my party to evil, as at least one level (I'm guessing two, for symmetry) won't allow good characters. The two major options seem to be: 1) create a brand-new evil party and build them up, a thought that fills me with despair; or 2) switch my existing characters to evil by attacking friendly parties. The problem with the latter approach is that friendly parties don't come along very often, and it's not guaranteed that even one party member will change alignment if you attack them.

My ticket to an evil disposition. Later.
  
I probably made things more difficult for myself by creating an almost all-good party in the first place; on the other hand, I don't think the game gave me a "neutral" option when I was importing the characters from Wizardry II. Anyway, since the time commitment isn't trivial with either option, I don't mind spoilers to this question: what is the actual nature of the alignment restrictions on the levels? Does Level 3 kick me out if any of my characters are good, or does it only kick me out if none of them are evil? Would a good/evil mixture be able to visit all levels? (It's normally not possible to combine them both in one party, but there's a trick to get around this.)

Not much else to tell you at this juncture except a bunch of random notes:

  • Last time, I suggested that every time you level up, there's an equal chance that each attribute will increase, decrease, or stay the same. On further examination, I don't think this is quite true. While attributes do frequently decrease during leveling (and while I occasionally get a horrible level-up in which all attributes decrease), in general I think the ratio of increases to decreases is about 2:1 or maybe 3:2. My party members are generally better now than they were at Level 1, as evidenced by the fact that both my fighters could transition to samurais if they wanted to.

Occasions like this are as common as the "all loss" screen shot I had in the last post.

  • Alas, I'm no closer than ever to becoming a ninja, which requires absurdly high stats--17 in everything. Has anyone ever legitimately made ninja in the DOS versions of one of the first three Wizardry games?

When I created him, he had a very high bonus pool. Despite that, and despite reaching Level 8 already, Lone Wolf needs 2 more strength, 7 more IQ, 6 more piety, and 6 more vitality to be a ninja.
  
  • The joy of getting your first MAHALITO in a Wizardry game is akin to the joy of getting your first "Fireball" in a Gold Box game.
  • While I still like Excel for mapping, I don't have a good way to depict one-way doors. There are a lot of them on Level 2.
  • I've always been mystified by the options to rest at the inn. You need to rest to gain levels, but in doing so, it doesn't matter if you choose the stables, which are free, or the other options, which cost between 10 and 500 gold pieces a week. The only difference the room quality makes is how many hit points you restore per week--from 1 on "a cot" to 10 in the Royal Suite. It works out to between 10 and 50 gold pieces per hit point. In a game where gold is so precious (you need it for resurrections), why would anyone pay to restore hit points, when you can just pop into the dungeon, cast all your DIOS and DIAL spells, and pop back out if you need a refresh? Did loading speeds on the original platforms make it somehow worthwhile for players to just spend the money?

Maybe some players just like the extravagance.
  
  • The word "Garian" precedes a number of enemies in the game: Garian raider, Garian priest, Garian guard, and so forth. I'm curious where the name came from. The only citations I can find for "Garia" are a neighborhood of Calcutta, India, and an extinct town in Newfoundland. At least one other enemy, the Bengal tiger, suggests a south Asian theme for some of the monsters. I'll also take theories on the origin of "L'Kbreth."
  • I have a love/hate relationship with banshees, an enemy that has appeared on Level 4. On one hand, they die easily and can be "dispelled" in large numbers by my priest, providing solid experience points in both cases. On the other hand, if they manage to get in an attack, they level-drain the character. There is no more annoying effect in RPG-dom than level drain.

The definition of "relief."

  • Looking over the list of spells, I realized that never once have I tried HAMAN (wish) or MAHAMAN (big wish) spell in a Wizardry game. The reason is the one level of experience that it costs to cast it. However, I'm curious about the "selection of possible boons" that they offer. I look forward to trying them when I get those spell levels.

My enjoyment of Wizardry III is heavily influenced by how often I remind myself that I have a list of over 1,000 titles waiting for me. When I don't think about that, I'm actually enjoying myself a surprising amount. Only allowing a backup every 30 minutes still preserves a lot of of the tension, but it doesn't give me an anxiety attack every time I encounter a master ninja. The sense of character progression has been significant (I'm very glad the game started everyone at Level 1 again), and I think perhaps no game does spell balance as well as this series. I love that when I get slightly turned around in the maze, I agonize about whether to spend a spell slot on DUMAPIC.

Probably one or two more posts to finish this up. Happy New Year, everybody! Here's hoping I can finally finish 1990 in 2015.



45 comments:

  1. I've legitimately made a Neutral Ninja by getting the Thief Dagger and invoking it in Wizardry I. I made it pretty far into Legacy of L. and I believe that it is necessary to have two parties. On the other hand, if you keep most of your party neutral, you'll only have to switch your priest and Lord/Ninja out. I think it is almost impossible to develop a Ninja through leveling alone, and even if you did, Ninjas take forever to advance levels, so it's really tough to get them in the 6-10 level range where they can wander around unarmored and still have a great AC and get the crits.

    I abandoned the game out of frustration after I invoked a certain item by accident that cast the "Word of Recall" spell (I forget the name) that teleports you back to town, minus your items. It took me so long to grind out good loot that I decided not to play the game again.

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  2. After a lot of work I had a ninja in Wizardry I but this was on the Mac version, so the random numbers were probably different (and more favorable to the player).

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  3. Long shot, but could "Garian" be a little bit of Gary humor, as in Gygax?

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    1. Not a bad hypothesis. I guess we won't know unless the developers show up to comment.

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    2. I remember reading that Gary Gygax was infamous for making ridiculously difficult grinding D&D campaigns, where absolutely everyone is out to kill the players. So that would be a sensible reference.

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    3. Gygax put together adventures with lots of threats, to be sure. However pen & paper has no real "grinding" concept. You don't get to just sit around waiting for goblins to spawn or whatever. The DM is only going to put together "interesting" stuff to do. In some campaigns that might mean stories and goals, and for a DM who believes in high deadliness, all the stuff on offer is going to be high-danger.

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    4. Gygax was however known for dungeon crawling, which is mostly (entirely) what Wizardy is.

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  4. Christmas evening I was gaming while on the couch in front of the second hobbit film, that friends were watching in preparation for hobbit the third.

    For those who haven't seen it, hobbit the third is exactly what you'll expect, bar one scene of particularly cool fanservice.

    You may complain about having to lug your thief around, but consider the plight of the five useful members of the fellowship. FOUR hobbits.

    I always read that spell as MOJITO

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    1. Yeah. I love how during the conclave at Rivendell, no one speaks up about that. "Look, we agree Frodo should keep the ring because he's so innocent and uncorruptible, and fine, we'll take Sam, too, so Frodo won't feel so lonely....but can we just leave the other two worthless fellowship members behind? I mean, they don't even know how to hold swords."

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    2. That's one of the things that Jackson translated rather badly. In the book version of the Council, Elrond intended to send a couple of his family members along, and it was only pressure from Gandalf (who felt that it was fated for all four of the hobbits to go) led him to send Merry and Pippin along.

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    3. I like how the movie has Elrond seem to be slightly OCD in that scene. You see him silently count and then note how good it is that nine fellowship members matched the nine black riders.

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  5. I think it is a great idea to have something else to do during the LOTR movies. I found them to alternate between mind numblingly dull and terribly frustrating (for needless changes from the books), with the most time spent in dull land.

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  6. Could L'Kbreth be a reference to Akalabeth? It does seem a bit of a stretch, but at that point in time if they were going to homage another game the pool was pretty limited.

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    1. Possible. I think the "Elk Breath" hypothesis is the more likely.

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    2. It could also be a nod to "Elbereth" - if I try to pronounce L'Kbreth, there is very little difference between the two.

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  7. I don't know anything about this game, but is it possible the ratio of stat raises/drops on leveling has to do with whether you pay for the fancier bed when resting to trigger the level-up?

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    1. I don't THINK so. Someone suggested that in the last post. After that, I paid for the more expensive beds a few times and didn't see a major improvement, but there's so much randomness either way that you'd have to run multiple trials and record the results to see if there was any difference. I don't have any way to quickly run multiple trials.

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    2. If it was me that suggested it in the last post, it isn't what I meant. I just meant that if you use the Inn (which, really, why bother except to regain spell points to cast healing spells), you age faster if you use the less expensive rooms. And I do think that aging is a factor with stat increases. The older your characters get, the more chance of stat decreases.

      You know, if I was the one you're referencing. If that clears up what I meant. Or something.

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  8. The fight fight fight, parry parry parry is kind of comforting in its simplicity. Most modern RPGs have tons of skills and combat options but I like the feeling that you can do so little (just spam enter) and yet usually it's the optimal play to make. I wonder if when some people get older they will do things like play simple games like these, whereas if you think of an older person passing the time now, you can imagine them knitting or something like that.

    I enjoy your posts but I'm trying to avoid all spoiler content since I play to play these at sometime in the future.

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  9. Just quick comment for your mapping problem. Have you tried Grid Cartographer? It might suit well for you.

    http://www.davidwaltersdevelopment.com/tools/gridcart/

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    1. I can't remember. I've tried several tools, but my Excel method works so well (aside from the one-way door thing) that I don't feel a particular need to switch. Also, I can use the same workbooks for lists of spells, NPCs, quests, and what have you.

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    2. Easy solution to that: Doors that open North or East are red, ones that open West or South are blue.

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  10. I figured the dragon's name just meant "elk breath," presumably because dragons eat a lot of elk.

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    1. And princesses. A princess's morning breath is just as daunting as an elk's, so I've heard.

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    2. I think anonymous's theory is the most likely.

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  11. In my play-through I chose to make both good and evil parties (with some neutral members spanning both). My assumption was that it might get more annoying to fight endless battles waiting for the right one to flip alignments (and more fun to do some more level-upping with the alternate strategy!!)

    A walkthrough I read advised the "attacking creatures to flip your alignments strategy" instead. I don't know if the walkthrough author really tested both ways, but it did seem like he needed to swap his party's alignment quite a bit, to make it through. For reference, it took me about 2-3 months at 3-10 hrs./wk. of gaming time to finish (though I suspect my speed is < yours, especially since I map on real paper).

    Hope that helps. Looking forward to what you think of level 6. Happy New Gaming Year!!

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  12. TsuDhoNimh - the spell you cast was Loktofeit. It takes you back to the castle but I think it takes all your gold and equipment. It's a pretty nasty spell that should only be used in the most dire of situations.

    It may be best just to make another party that is evil. The 2nd and 4th levels can only be accessed by good/neutral characters and the 3rd and 5th levels can only be accessed by evil/neutral characters. You can't have a good/evil mixture at all. As a real kick in the pants I believe neutral characters can't enter level 6.

    I have made several ninjas. They take a very high bonus rolls (I once rolled a ninja from scratch - I got something like 60 or 75 bonus points that allowed me to populate all stats as 18's) and a lot of luck in stat increases in all the right areas when making levels. Also, invoking the Thieve's Dagger will turn a thief into a ninja.

    Ninjas don't become good fighters until about level 10 or so - so changing a character into a ninja is a bit silly because by the time you have a character than can change class to one, that character is probably level 17-20 and is a major bad@ss in their original class.

    I too was always curious about HAMAN and MAHAMAN but the few times I tried them I wasn't impressed. In fact, I'm pretty sure I tried it and then just reset it - because as you stated - losing a level is the worst thing ever in an RPG.


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    1. You've got it right about levels 2-5, but neutral char's (and any others that you can put with them in the same party, I believe) will be OK on levels 1 and 6. At least in the DOS version.

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    2. It actually took almost no time at all to wander around Level 1 and find enough friendly parties to turn more than half my characters evil. After that, I was able to ascend to Level 3, so the restriction seems to be based on the majority of your party rather than all of your party. Later, I turned those other "Gs" to "E" to avoid having to go through a complicated process of getting them to adventure together.

      I didn't think bonus rolls that high were even possible.

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    3. Oh, and Delmoko, you can have a good/evil mixture. You can't add good characters to evil parties while still in town, but outside of the town, all bets are off. There's no problem if alignments change while the party is active. If you've already returned to town with a mixed party, you can join them again by sending characters of one alignment out into the dungeon and leaving them there, then forming a party of characters of the second alignment, entering the dungeon, and finding the first party.

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  13. I don´t know if you already has seen this, filmed in Richard Garriotts Britannia Manor in ´94, so here you go:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=InvRalEuh4c#t=194

    "Despite no expense being spared on their design, Garriott’s Halloween events were available free on a first-come first-served basis and people would queue for days to get a spot.

    These weren’t about cheap scares as you might expect but were as much about roleplaying and there was a strong Ultima theme with original storylines for each year…This comes from an old VHS labelled Spookhouse Tapes 1-3 and in combination with it being filmed on a 90’s camcorder at night the quality isn’t the best. It still gives a glimpse into what it would have been like to take part in one of these events as we follow some hapless adventurers on their journey through hell in pursuit of the Avatar."

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    1. Love the Daemon at the end

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  14. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    1. A hint from a long ago computer magazine indicated that it is possible to transition evil characters to good. When evil characters meet good aligned foes, opt to leave them in peace (basically the opposite of what you are doing to turn good to evil). I hope I am recalling this correctly.

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    2. Yes, that is the case. After I turned everyone to evil, I had to remember to keep attacking "friendly" parties; otherwise, they'd go back to good again.

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  15. "While I still like Excel for mapping, I don't have a good way to depict one-way doors. There are a lot of them on Level 2."

    The traditional way of doing this on old CRPG/D&D maps is to have an arrow going through the wall or door in the direction you can walk through it. If you don't mind a little dinking around, you could insert -> shape and draw arrows across cells. You could even copy and paste the arrows to keep them the same length.

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    1. I thought of that. I guess I worried that they'd get all out of whack if I needed to insert some rows or columns. In any event, I rarely revisit the same areas, so it would be a lot of extra effort for no reason. I'd do it if I was creating the maps for others to use.

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    2. You could also put a character in each cell. Say nsew, with lowercase indicating that that exit is one-way and capital indicating that that entrance is one way. You'd only really need one or the other, but having the capacity to do both may reduce confusion.

      There are also characters in the extended character sets that look like arrows in various directions. You could use those if you're willing to copy and paste them around.

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  16. In Portuguese, "mau halito" means "bad breath". So I always thought MAHALITO was a poison-cloud-type spell... :)

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    1. That's funny. The association is there in English, too, in the word "halitosis." Wizardry copied the name from the PLATO Oubliette, I think, but it's entirely possible that the original developers chose the term for that very reason.

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  17. Thanks for talking about Wizardry- any Wizardry. I am ashamed to say that I took a break from the series after 2 and didn't come back till 6. Of course 8 is possibly my favorite game ever. I will check out 3 after reading your blog- thanks again.

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  18. When I played through this recently I had an entirely neutral party except for the priest. It made switching alignments for floors 2-4 and 3-5 much quicker. Making an evil and good party is too much work in my opinion as the experience in Wizardry III seems to be less than the other games. I have actually been playing through the series similar to you, I finished Wizardry 1 completely legit, 2-3 with party wipe reloads, and 4 legit (with a guide). Working on V right now. While I think everyone should play Wizardry in its original form at least once to feel that fear and anxiety, the games are much more enjoyable if you allow at least some reloading.

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  19. Why are there Bengal Tigers in the Wizardry universe? It's like having Chicago Squirrels in LOTR movies.

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  20. Since I already had a window open with the Wizardry pascal source I can tell you the attribute thing:

    So it goes through each attribute and decides if it should modify an attribute 25% of the time it will. Next it decides if it should go up or down. The probability of your attribute going up is 1-[age in years]/130. Otherwise it checks to see if this attribute is 18. If it is there's a 16% chance of it doing nothing otherwise the attribute goes down.

    The increases and decreases are all by one and have no special purpose EXCEPT vitality. If your vitality drops to 2 then you get the message "** YOU HAVE DIED OF OLD AGE **"

    Caveats: This is all based on source created from the Apple II version of the Pascal binaries of Wizardry III. It's possible that some versions of Wiz III used a different source - my first guess would be consoles. I can't verify if the rules are consistent across Wiz I/II. Even on the Apple II.

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  21. I can answer your question about gaining attributes pretty definitively.

    Effectively when you gain a level the computer goes through your attributes and rolls 1d4 for each one. If it gets a "1" it changes that attribute.

    For each attribute it decides to change it rolls 1d130 and compares it to your age in years. If it's higher your stat goes up by one.

    If it's lower, it checks to see if this attribute is an 18. If it is then it rolls 1d6 and on a "4" it leaves it alone. Anything else the stat goes down by one.

    Vitality is a special case. If your vitality drops to 2, you get the message "** YOU HAVE DIED OF OLD AGE **"

    Caveats: This is all based on a disassembly of the Wizardry III source code from the Apple II. Some platforms may differ (I'd expect that most PC's use a Pascal run-time but consoles probably don't). I also can't guarantee that the behavior in Wizardy I/II is identical even on the Apple.

    (I posted this before but I think it got eaten)

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