Saturday, December 17, 2011

Wizardry V: All I Want for Christmas is Two Front Ranks

The new party. Totally evil except for the samurai.

If anyone's thinking about playing Pool of Radiance in the near future, here's a way to make it awesome: an all-mage party. Think about it. Fighters have basically one thing to do, but mages have a host of options. You'd get to try out all the spells that no one ever tries because "fireball" is too useful to waste a slot memorizing "slow." The opening stages would be a major challenge, sure, but imagine how rewarding it would be. What's that I hear? "What about healing spells?" Boo-hoo. Bring along a cleric NPC. Or, better yet, haul your butts back to a temple after every map. Are you worried you won't have enough gold?

I thought about doing this on my play-through, but a) I chickened out, and b) I thought that since I was publicly blogging the game, I had a responsibility to try out all the game's options. But last night, after blogging about Wizardry V, it hit me: the options in this game are pretty much the same as in the first four games. Essentially, I'm replaying the same game for the fifth time. Given that, I can go hog-wild.

Well, no I can't. The game has that stubborn restriction by which only the first three characters can fight, and they're always right up-front in combat. If you had an all-mage party, the first three characters would get slaughtered. If you had an all-fighter party, the last three would have nothing to do. And this, my friends, is one example of why the Wizardry series' lack of evolution is not representative of some kind of raw purity. You don't even have to go to iconographic (thanks, JS) games like Pool of Radiance to get some slightly better tactics. The Bard's Tale II introduced distances and missile weapons. Might & Magic assigns which characters can fight based on the shape of the combat terrain. The only virtues I find in Wizardry V's throwback system are the challenges associated with permanent death, limited saves, and limited spell restoration. But the combat mechanics are too primitive to allow me to do anything creative with character classes.

Still, after suffering a full-party death last night, I decided to do something different and adventure with an evil party. Partly, I wanted to try out a ninja, and you have to be evil for that. Unfortunately, the minimum stats for a ninja require at least 40 bonus points during character creation, and although I hit that once yesterday, today the highest I got was 28. So I settled for a high-scoring thief who hopefully I can upgrade to ninja later.

This time, while rolling new characters, I kept tally of the bonus pools, and a curious pattern emerged. These were the figures out of 125 rolls:

Score Appearances
7 30
8 33
9 21
10 27
17 1
18 5
19 2
20 5
28 1

What do you suppose the underlying programming is here? My guess is that the game selects a random base score of 7-10 and then, about 10% of the time, adds 10 to that total and then, maybe another 10% of the time, adds an additional 10, and so on. That would partly explain why there are no scores between 11 and 16 or between 21 and 26. The variances within the groupings (e.g., 21 occurrences of 9 but 33 of 8) seems higher than you would expect by random chance, but a chi-square test tells me that the significance level associated with that is 0.42. We'd need less than 0.05 in my profession to call it statistically significant; I'm not sure what the standard for CPRGs is.

If you're wondering if I'm going on about measures of statistical significance because I wasted the entire evening creating a party again, have no fear. I eventually did get a decent group and headed out into the dungeon. This time around, I did something probably against my rules and backed up the save file. I'm not going to keep backing it up, but I also wasn't going to start over again from scratch if I lost the party it took me 2 hours to create within the first 12 minutes.

This is my favorite foe so far. High reward, low risk.

I didn't, in any event. Only suffering a few character deaths, requiring me to raise them, I managed to get my part up to levels 4 and 5, which is enough to explore the first dungeon level without too much fear. The problem is, I'm a bit stuck. This is the map I've created so far:

I tried an RPG mapping application, but I didn't like it as much as Excel.

The DUMAPIC spell helped me figure out the coordinates, and so far the dungeon is at least 25 x 30, but with---as you can see--lots of blank space. I've encountered four locked doors that seem to require keys, a temple where they say I need an orb to enter, and an area that I'm scared to enter because it says not to when "the motor is on" (the "motor room" to the north is one of the locked doors).

You don't mess with this kind of thing in permanent death games.

There's a transportation chamber that requires a "token" and a weird message that I can't yet interpret. Overall, I feel a bit like I'm in an adventure game where I'm lacking the one item that will open the door that will get me the succession of other items.

Any ideas on this?

I suspect the solution lies in the INSPECT command, which has the option to search for "hidden objects." So I'm going to retrace my steps and inspect every damned square. This is not a welcome addition to the game.

A few notes:

  • Either the game does not have fixed encounters, or it remembers that you already defeated them. I've yet to encounter monsters in the same square repeatedly.
  • Unlike Wizardry I, you don't lose attributes when leveling; you only gain.

This is a very satisfying process.

  • The game may scale the encounters. I started encountering multiple groups when I reached level 3.
  • My thief is a lot more successful at disarming traps than in previous Wizardrys.
  • Like The Bard's Tale, thieves have a "hide" option that, if successful, allows them to "ambush" opponents on the next round. Unfortunately, I'm not often successful with that option.

This was not a common message in the first Wizardry.

Let's see if I can get Level 1 finished off by my next posting.


  1. Nice to have you back. I hope you gets lots of gaming in over the holidays while I'm home. I've been playing Skyrim on my brothers xbox and agree with your assessment that it is a solid game.

    Roll again on the maximum results was pretty common in 1980s tabletop RPGs, so I wouldn't be surprised if that is how they did it.

  2. It's always very interesting to read your posts, thanks.

    Bad news for you nowadays only the japaneses have been making Wizardry-like games and they brainlessly copying the system of the first Wizardry. :)

  3. I'm glad you're back, and I hope things are going much better for you. I love your maps, and this segues perfectly into this: I took six of your maps from your Dungeon Master entries, joined them together, and shaded them. I then used this pic as the background for my new blog. You are credited for the background at the bottom of the page.

    Have a look if you like.

    I'm going to be writing about old RPG's and Adventure Games, and my experience playing through them and posting them as videos for the internetted masses. I hope you don't mind me using your maps as a background (nor the blatant plug here). If you're annoyed by either, I can remove them. I must say your maps are excellent, and your critiques of these games, even better. The world needs more blogs like yours.

  4. I mentioned this before when you started but Wiz V is a tough game. The Wizardry series especially 4 & 5 have as much game time as Skyrim does. It certainly doesn't have the depth, they didn't have the space and hardware to do that so the timesinks are more basic. Basically, they made them impossible for anyone but the most dedicated imho. Wiz 6 eased up a lot on the difficulty.

    Back then I'd only have 1 game and nothing else to do. I played these back pre-Internet, pre-BBS, pre-Any Help. I played and beat 1-3 and was quite a Wizardry expert. I sunk a lot of hours into V and never made it much more than level 4 or 5. It's too far back to remember exactly what I did but I can make some suggestions.

    1) Thieves don't need to be in spots 1-3. So get 3 beefy tanks and put your thief in slot 6.

    2) Don't get stuck on starting stats so much. You'll level up and gain enough.

    3) Collect all the goodies on a level as you need them to either get to the next or later on

    4) Because of #2 you need to map the levels extensively and they are non-standard sizes. Some are huge like 70x50. I know your level 1 is missing a lot so far maybe due it missing items to get past.

    5) There's an item a few levels down to help diving into pools.

    6) Those floor marking I think are large words (poorly created in ascii). ex. The last two letters are M E. Can't recall the point.

  5. Wizardry 5 is the first real sequel to Wizardry 1. #2 and 3 were just expansion packs and #4 was a bizarre spinoff. I played the SNES version for a while but lost interest eventually.

    Someone should do a remake of it, but with a nice new engine and new game mechanics.

  6. I had to smile when I read you mentioning the chi square test.

    Other than that, Wizardry V sounds pretty awful, I am very glad I only played VI and VII.

  7. I got down as far as level 6 or so and don't remember that I had to do a lot of guesswork with the (I)nspect command - there's usually some indication of places where to use it, either in game text or because you're in a dead end or there's some unexplored area in the middle of the map.

    I found the game does still occasionally reduce points when leveling up, but it's much rarer in this game and usually happens when you have gained a lot of points elsewhere.

  8. The depth you go into when analysing these games is enormous. Not everyone out there would appreciate your efforts, but as a fellow game addict and rpg lover, I sure do. The roll statistical table is gold!

    It's great to have you posting again and I hope you have a long uninterrupted run over the Xmas period.

  9. Canageek, thanks for the info. There's something a little more to it, because if there was a bonus roll on every maximum, we'd expect the higher scores more than 10% of the time, but it must be something along those lines.

    Amy, I love it. Very flattering, thank you. Your blog is bookmarked!

    Jay, thanks for the tips. It's a good thing I'm not trying to play Skyrim simultaneously, then. I guess I see the "M" and the "E," but it's rather ineptly done, and like you, I can't imagine what the first two letters are.

    Glad everyone else is with me. It's good to be blogging consistently again.

  10. Keeep your eyes open; you might find some weapons that allow some of your caster types to act from the back row.

  11. Thanks for the hint. All I've found so far is bows, which the casters can't use, but I'm glad to hear there might be more.

  12. ---"What about healing spells?" Boo-hoo. Bring along a cleric NPC. ---

    Forgive an old T&T player, but can wizards not do healing spells? What's the rationale for that?

    Can they transform a bird into a pig, for instance, but not seal a wound? Seems weird to me.

    1. No, in the Wizardry series and most D&D-derived games, healing is part of divine (priest/cleric) magic, and not arcane (mage/wizard) magic. I think whether it's justified or not depends on how well it fits with the lore and setting.

  13. Doesn't chi2 treat groups as categorical, not ratio? It would assume equivalent distinction between 9-10 and 10-17, for example. I wonder if you'd get a significant result if you filled in the unobserved values.

    I'm not trolling - just curious.

    1. Yes, Chi-Squared is a test for statistical significance of variations in categorical data. That doesn't mean you can't apply it to higher-order data though. You can always treat ordinal, interval, and ratio data as if it were categorical; you just can't go the other way around.

      In this case, my hypothesis was simply that the allocation of values wasn't random, which only requires categorical data. If I'd hypothesized that the values grow (or shrink) the more times you try, or that certain classes get better rolls, I would have had to calculate averages and other interval/ratio measures and thus required a different test.

  14. What's really cool about this idea is that spellcaster classes often have synergies which are balanced around talent point or spell slot limitations... for a single character. Often the reason a caster isn't ridiculously overpowered is because they have to commit multiple turns setting up conditions that let their damage spells shine.

    But an entire party of the same class could completely dismantle such limitations. You could have two mages applying the set up and three soaking the damage *in the first turn*. The problem as you mention is surviving and sustaining, but if the game allows any leeway whatsoever (potions or items that allow casters to heal/stand in the front lines) the power for exploitation could be tremendous. I'm already getting ideas to go back to Etrian Odyssey (think Wizardry but with anime art) and run a 4 or 5 alchemist group.


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