Sunday, July 31, 2022

The Return of Werdna: Won!

 
Goddamned right.
         
One of the more obscure films that I enjoy is The Emperor's New Clothes (2001). Napoleon Bonaparte, exiled to Saint Helena, manages to replace himself with a double and return to France in secrecy. Once there, he marches up to the Palace of Fontainebleau and declares himself only to meet stony silence from the bemused guard. It's a funny moment that reminds us how authority is illusory, dependent on a mass of people believing and accepting it as much as it depends upon laws and rules.
   
I was reminded of the film as Werdna emerged from the dungeon and beheld the castle he's always felt he deserves. I don't know what his intentions are, but centuries have passed. I can imagine a similar conversation with some bureaucrat. "You're who now? 'Weirdo'? What kind of a name is that? All right, have a seat and I'll see if I can find someone to 'kneel to your power.' There's a pandemic going on, you know, and a lot of people are working from home."
   
Before continuing, I MALORed down to Level 5 and spun around until the Holy Rollers attacked. The combat was embarrassingly easy, and when it was over, I had a Magician's Hat again. I then zoomed up to Level 1 and prepared to park next to the pentagram for as long as it took to find someone with a "Blade Cusinart [sic]." (I had been using the proper spelling in previous entries.) I found it on my first combat, with a fighter named Bloodmetal. I guess a lot of enemies on "Cosmic Cube" levels carry it, but it's only shown as "Weapon" in the post-combat loot screen. (Thanks to BronzeBob for supplying a clue about this.) Anything else plot-important, the game highlights with a special name.
         
I don't like the sound of that.
     
From there, it was back to the Level 4 witch. After confirming I had all the ingredients, she said she'd give me the Blue Blood Special for free, in exchange for a later favor. I accepted, and my reward was a "dark glob" that resolved as a Dab of Puce in my inventory. I don't think puce is a noun, but there you have it. I was more delighted at suddenly having five empty inventory slots in the Black Box.
   
After a stop at the Level 1 pentagram to refresh my MALORs and party members, it was time to explore and map the castle. I mapped the outer perimeter first. The only way to the interior was through a single opening on the south side, where a "hoplite" (a Greek soldier) demands the password. This is a famously aggravating part of this game, as it requires you to have not only won Wizardry but also have taken notes as to miscellaneous scribblings found in the dungeon. The so-called password, TREBOR SUX, is found at the bottom of a warning plaque as you enter Werdna's domain. There are Oracle hints that point you to it: "Password is your ancient battlecry" and "Seek amongst the historical writings of Trebor's foes for the password." Only the latter is really helpful, as TREBOR SUX is hardly a "battlecry."
       
What is bad Attic Latin? [Ed. As commenter tetrapod figured out, Attic in this example means "from Attica, the region of Greece that includes Athens. It goes with the guard being a "hoplite."]
    
If I hadn't replayed Wizardry in 2013 in anticipation of The Knight of Diamonds, I wouldn't have had a chance of getting the password. If you've been reading me that long, you may recall that in my coverage of Wizardry, I was able to skip much of the final level. My thief tripped a teleport trap on an early chest, and the teleportation managed to put me directly in front of Werdna. I skipped the part of the map with the plaque.
   
In my replay, though, I didn't get so lucky, and my maps of the level do show the phrase. I like to think I would have figured it out, but nothing else in this game absolutely requires knowledge from outside the game (although, as we've noted, many things are hard to figure out without previous Wizardry experience and experience with nerd culture in general). In any event, the need for the password was spoiled for me a long time ago, and unlike most of the other spoilers I saw in 2010, this one stuck in my head.

Once inside the gates, the castle opens up into an area with several buildings and encounters. None of the corner towers are accessible except for a single set of stairs in the northwest one. There are two buildings inaccessible on this level (MALOR works from the castle, but not to it), although they become available on the second and third levels. Note that the overall pattern of the walls unsubtly spells out "RRA III" for Roe R. Adams III. Robert Woodhead and Andrew Greenberg did the same thing in the original game.
      
The main level.
       
I've only achieved one ending so far, but my feeling from the experience is that the ending you get has a lot to do with the order in which you choose to do things. I don't see how any role-playing or forethought could have led me to one ending over another. I'll relate the particular order in which I experienced the endgame encounters and why it led to my particular endgame, then analyze what I needed to do differently later.
 
There are no random encounters in the three castle levels, only fixed ones. The Oracle flits around, but every time I encountered him, he just said, "**ERR**." Either he doesn't work on the castle level, or I've run out of clues.
    
Or this is a really obscure clue.
    
While exploring the outlines of the buildings, I found two fountains in the northern part of the map. One was broken, "closed for repairs." The other said that it was "open for public bathing" but a "lifeguard must be on duty." The game noted there was no lifeguard and gave me the option to swim in it. I did: "As you bathe in this pool, you are enveloped by a feeling of foreboding. Suddenly the weight of your past evil deeds descends upon your stooped shoulders again!" I checked the character sheet, and my alignment had turned evil. I didn't want that yet, and as I'd accomplished nothing else worth saving, I reloaded and kept myself neutral.
   
I then explored the buildings to the south, which you can enter only from the west. "The edge of town," the game alerted me as I entered, showing me a graphic. I moved on to the next building, "the Training Grounds." I was attacked as I entered by Von Halstern Squires, Squad #3. Their motto, amusing, was: "Wrong end! It's a basket hilt, not a mace, you dummy!" The squad was pathetic, a samurai and five fighters, most with single-digit hit points. I let my allies defeat them.
      
Please.
   
The battle is followed with fights against Squad #2 ("Teamwork, teamwork, teamwork!") and Squad #1 ("Bite 'em, Vlad!"). Both squads are all fighters, and no one with a hit point total higher than 26. They were trivial. I tried Googling the significance of "Von Halstern," and it seems to be another Society for Creative Anachronisms figure. I think we can just assume that's true of all references unless we find otherwise.
   
The next building held Boltac's Trading post, only, as the messages related, Boltac wouldn't sell to me, "even if you paid in Mythril!" I was looking for a lych-gate at Boltac's, as the Oracle had said, "Look to the lych-gate!" and a blimp advertised them for sale. Sure enough, the game noted that I saw "the legendary lych-gate of the Archmage Phred" and that "it has been rumored capable of razing castles when in the hands of one who is truly evil." The game asked if I wanted to steal it. I said yes.
  
I was attacked by Boltac's Anti-Shoplifting Unit ("Gotcha, senile delinquent!"). The "squad" consists of a ninja, fighter, priest, and mage named Air, Earth, Fire, and Water. The mage has 330 hit points and the fighter has 600. I decided to let my allies cast mass-damage spells while I hoped for critical hits with my sword. I was lucky enough to lop off Air's head in the first round and Fire's in the second, which meant that Fire could only get off one TILTOWAIT. 
      
All four elements respond to NUKE.
   
But after the battle, there was no lych-gate in my inventory, and apparently no way to get it. I later thought that maybe it's because I wasn't evil, so I'll go back and check that later.
 
I tried the northeast building, but upon entry, it said, "The door to the inn is locked. Without the large brass key, you cannot gain admittance." Moving on, I decided to explore the small tower in the north. "The tall donjon rises before you," the game said. "It is the citadel of the castle." I thought Adams was being cute with the word dungeon, but I looked it up, and damned if donjon isn't actually a word for a fortified tower. (It of course has the same roots as dungeon.) 
      
Awfully small for a citadel.
    
The tower consisted of three levels. On the base level, I met a group called the Captain's Council, consisting of a ninja, a thief, two mages, and two priests of modest ability. The names were drawn from foes I'd already faced in the dungeon. I cast a LAHALITO or two, but mostly my allies finished them off.

On the second floor was the Council of Barons: a ninja, a lord, a samurai, a fighter, a priest, and a mage. They were capable of some relatively high-level spells, but again they were less difficult than the typical Level 1 party in the dungeon.
      
Are those crowns or a bunch of guys around a table?
      
Finally, on Level 3, I met the Great Dukes of the Realm. A message specifically named them Duke Akbar ibn Murad al-Ben Muhammad ibm Hakim ("Ibm" is probably a deliberate misspelling to make a play on IBM); Duke Siegfried von Halstern; Duke Cariadoc of the Bow; Duke Vissevald Selkriksson; Barak Duke Hasdrubal; and Duke Sigmund the Wingfooted. These are all SCA figures, which is fine, but as usual I wish the game had bothered to do some actual world-building. It just gets worse from here.

The dukes attacked me. Each is a good lord with at least 570 hit points, but oddly they were only capable of lower-level spells. Success came down to whether more than one or two per round targeted me in physical combat. It took two reloads, but my allies and I eventually carried the day.
      
I love this message.
     
Triumphant after the battle, I stepped forward--and plummeted two stories to the ground. The upper levels of the castle are all meant to be understood as small walkways or rooftops. Unfortunately, there's no indication of where they end, so you have to figure it out from context or do a lot of reloading. The Winged Boots don't keep you aloft.

Moving east from the battle with the dukes led to a similar drop-off, and that was all there was. Sure there must be some purpose to the room, I tested the walls and found a secret door just north of the entrance. It brought me to a "wizened old scholar" who introduced himself as Master Bertram, curator of the treasure room. "I have an item that you dearly require," he said. "Tell me what it is, and it shall be yours!"
   
Or I just kill you and take everything.
     
This was my moment! I confidently answered AMULET. "Wrong!" he said. Confused, I tried AMULET OF YENDOR, forgetting momentarily what game I was playing. "Wrong!" LYCH-GATE? "Wrong!" I went through the Oracle's hints: ILIAD, QABALAH, ROOTS OF THE WORLD, BOTTLE. All "wrong!" BRASS KEY got me nowhere.
   
I nearly moved on, but I wanted to solve this thing. I grabbed the manual to see if the amulet is ever called anything except The Amulet. I tried MYSTICAL AMULET, but no deal. As I was reading, this paragraph caught my eye, referring to Werdna's research into the amulet:
  
The scroll appeared to be written by the apprentice to the wizard who opened the gate that night so long ago. His mind seemed to have been blasted by what he had seen, for only stray bits and snatches of thought were scribbled on the scroll. He kept repeating over and over again something about the glowing eye of THE GOD, which I took to mean the amulet. He also ranted about losing the Mythril Gauntlets entrusted to his care, and groveling for forgiveness from someone or something. The last part of the scroll was filled with dire prophecies and fears for his own eternal torment.
          
Thinking I had it, I tried EYE OF THE GOD and GLOWING EYE OF THE GOD and EYE and GLOWING EYE, all with negative results. It was almost as an afterthought that I tried MYTHRIL GAUNTLETS, and damned if that didn't work. I assume they're necessary to touch the amulet, but as we'll see, that's not the ending I got this time.
   
I left the tower the quick way (rather than fight the barons and captains again) and tried the stairs to the tower in the northwest. The second level is ringed by what I suppose is the castle ramparts. In each corner is a one-square walkway surrounding a 1 x 2 tower. Each of the corners of the tower has an encounter with a single "sentry," a fighter with 76 hit points. Along the ramparts, you meet heralds--bishops with 91 hit points. As the heralds die, they call for help with their trumpets, and you have to fight an "honor guard" of six mid-level fighters. All of these combats are trivial.
 
Level 2 of the castle. The blue area is open air.
    
Next to each of the towers is a stairway up, leading to the 1 x 2 top of the towers. If you step anywhere else, you fall two stories. Three of those tower tops have a battle with a group of crossbowmen, again trivial. But the fourth has you fight The Innkeeper, a high-level ninja who drops a brass key. I suppose there's a danger of decapitation in this battle, but I won in one try.
       
The third level, or most of it. I didn't get through the door at (4,12).
      
With the key in hand, I entered the Adventurer's [sic] Inn. In the foyer, I met the Walking Wounded ("Oh, groan! Not you again! Man the crutches!"), a hapless party composed of pre-wounded characters I met on lower levels. I brushed past them. The inn had a few rooms with nothing in them and two ways up: a staircase and an elevator.
      
What a badass name.
    
I took the staircase first. It led to a second floor with four rooms, each the meeting place of some chivalric order or guild--and it turned out that they were all happy to see me. The Tyger's Cubs introduced themselves as Cormac Kyle, Patri ibn Cariadoc, Krisha von Halstern, Alison von Halstern, Mitchell of Clan Mitchell, and Luke Maximillian. They took the Pennonceaux from my inventory and thanked me for returning their banner. In return, they gave me a ball called the Orb of Dreams.

I tried using the Orb of Dreams and had a nonsense dream drawn from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland in which a large white rabbit complained, "I'm late! I'm late! For the life of me, where is the opening?" Or is that some kind of hint?
        
This game sure has a thing about rabbits.
         
Across the hall, I met the Order of the Laurel: Baroness Kathryn Goodwyn, Sigismund Vasa Care, Johannes von Nurenstein, Gabriella Maddelena Pisano, Arwen Evaine Merch Gwynth, and Salaamallah the Corpulent. They took the Daub of Puce from me, planning to use it to "touch up the old painting of Trebor." In return, they gave me the Arrow of Truth. I tried using it. "The fickle finger of fate spins . . . and points at you!!!'
   
The next room had the Order of the Pelican: Master El of the Two Knives, Aravis Katheryn Delclare, Jaella of Armida, Alisoun MacCoul of Elphane, Steffan ap Cenydd of Silverwing, and Anne of Hatfield. They thanked me for restoring the Temple of the Dreampainter and gave me a Maintenance Hat. It just said "Clap! Clap!" when I invoked it, but I knew immediately what it was for.
         
This is just getting embarrassing.
         
Finally, I crossed the hall and interrupted a meeting of the Ladies of the Rose: Khadijah of House Hakim, Wanda von Halstern, Diana Alene, Kunegunda Henschel von Schattenberg, Ecaterina Amber of Tospenwood, and Mara Tudora Kolarova. The game even makes a distinction that some are "their graces" and some "their excellencies," which are of course SCA castes.

They congratulated me for "chivalrous action towards [my] most bitter enemy, Trebor." I feel like I'm getting credit for a lot of things I did for the sake of survival, namely restoring the temple and putting Trebor to rest. I'm also getting credit for hoarding items that sounded like they might be needed for solving a puzzle.
      
It wasn't chivalry. I would have sent him to Hell if it were an option.
         
Anyway, the ladies couldn't stand my "foul stench" and attacked. I failed to take a screenshot of the battle, so I don't know what their classes were. It couldn't have been hard. 
   
I dropped back down to the courtyard and headed for the broken fountain. Sure enough, the maintenance cap "instilled in [me] the knowledge you need to repair" it. When it was fixed, I bathed in it, and as I suspected it turned me good. My allies took one look at me and fled in terror. Fortunately, that wasn't a permanent effect, and I was able to head back to the Level 1 pentagram and get more.
       
If only it were this easy.
     
Squeaky clean, I returned to the Ladies of the Rose, and they were satisfied: "Receive our token of grace. Keep it on thy person at all times, for it is a royal pardon for thy crimes, and none shall bother thee whilst thee wear it!"
      
What were my crimes, really? I set up shop in a dungeon and fought off adventurers until I died.
        
Here, I'll just pause and say that it's cool that Werdna can change alignments, but it ought to have been harder than just bathing in a couple of pools. Roe Adams worked on Ultima IV, for heaven's sake. There was a real opportunity here for some role-playing choices. What if I'd had the power to either save Trebor's soul at a cost of some of my attributes or consign him to hell for even more power? What if I'd had a choice as to whether to fight or greet the castle denizens? I know, blah blah blah, that's not what this game is about. I can still lament why it wasn't better.
   
I returned to the inn and took the elevator. On the way, the Von Halstern Chivalry stood aside for "the noble Werdna," so that was a battle I didn't have to fight. The elevator led to Gilgamesh's Tavern, but there was nothing to do there. I stopped before a west exit from the tavern. "Halt!" a message read. "No further may thee travel unless thou hast decided to seek thy destiny in the Amulet!" 
        
I just realized I switched off CGA graphics at some point, and no one bothered to mention it.
     
I said yes, and entered battle with the Softalk All-Stars Less One ("For Margot and Al, one more time!") A little Googling later told me that the Softalk All-Stars refers to a group of heroes discussed in the March 1982 issue of Softline magazine as examples of a Wizardry adventuring party. Each was contributed by a different reader; for instance, Sezmar the Samurai was the alter ego of John Hanny of Avon, Connecticut, and Sarah the Priest was created by Deborah Conover of Brookline, Massachusetts. The "minus one" refers to the fact that Roe Adams's own hero, Hawkwind the Ninja, is absent.
 
This was the hardest fight in the game for me. It took me nine reloads. Just like Applet's Angels on Level 1, two of them are capable of TILTOWAIT, and unlike the Angels, they have insane hit points. My strategy was to target Tuck the first round, hoping for a decapitation before he could cast, and equally hope that my allies softened the rest enough that by the third round, I'd be able to take my sword to Prospero. Another part of my strategy, I suppose, was hoping they chose something other than TILTOWAIT. On the tenth try, I got lucky.
         
What is their symbol? A peppermint Life Saver?
       
I saved the game inside the door beyond, but then I spent some time exploring the edges of the rooftop outside, taking lots of falls and having to reload. In one corner, I found a pack rat's nest, and searching it rewarded me with "the Nyin," which appears in my inventory as a Void Transducer. I couldn't figure out how to use it for anything. Because I had reloaded from falling, I would have had to fight the battle with the Softalk All-Stars again if I wanted to keep it, so instead I just marked where it was and reloaded from inside the temple.
   
Inside, I got a message indicating I was in the Temple of Cant, where "we support the fundamental freedom to worship the god of OUR choice." There was an immediate throw-away battle with five priests and a bishop of moderate levels. The game got a chuckle out of me with the character names.
      
Additional characters could have been "Touch Of," "Resident," and "Midnight in the Garden of Good and."
     
Moving forward, I reached a final door, which was guarded by "Lord Hawkwind of Skara Brae, elfin ninja--the last member of the Softalk All-Stars." I knew that Adams was responsible for "Skara Brae" appearing in both The Bard's Tale and Ultima, but I didn't know there was a reference in the Wizardry universe, too--nor that Hawkwind the Seer from Britannia had an alter-ego in Wizardry.
        
Careful, buddy. We're not on thou terms.
         
"Thou shalt not pass this way, this day or ever!" he announced, and I suspected he was right. The entire session, I'd been awaiting the battle for which I'd need the Level 10 dink, and this is clearly it. "You are about to battle a living legend," the game announced before the combat, but "battle" turned out to be generous. Hawkwind has 1,000 hit points and an armor class of "VL," which I assume means "very low." He didn't even "noticeth" my allies' MADALTOs and TILTOWAITs, and every attack I made against him missed. Meanwhile, he parried every round, and the game offered an escalating series of things that he did instead of fighting. "Lord Hawkwind laughs!" it began, followed in the next round by, "Lord Hawkwind chuckles!"
       
This battle would go faster if I hadn't brought all these demons.
     
In succession from there, round after round, he snickered, read Pikestaff (an SCA magazine), answered his mail, filed his nails, sent out for sushi, ignored me, pet his dragons, paid for the sushi, fed sushi to his dragons, pretended to take a nap, really fell asleep "(from boredom)," woke up, brushed his teeth, brewed tea, oiled his blade, and said his morning prayers.
        
Where could you get sushi delivered in the 1980s?
     
After that, things took a dark turn. He petitioned to offer me up as a sacrifice, filled out the sacrificial order form in triplicate, got approval for my sacrifice, bound and gagged me (I could participate no more in combat from this point), anointed me with sacrificial oils, and at last sacrificed me to Kadorto. "Kadorto is pleased," the game said, "but considers you to be a very poor substitute for a goat!"
        
I mean--for dinner, sure.
       
Anyway, I am 100% sure the answer to winning this combat is to have a dink with me, and my first thought was to reload and go grab one. But the post-pardon reaction by the Von Halstern Chivalry intrigued me, and I wondered whether the Captain's Council, Baron's Council, and Duke's Council similarly had alternate messages if I carried the pardon. Deciding to check this out instead of getting the dink turned out to be a fateful decision.
   
Inside the tower, the Captain's Council announced they would bend their knees to me if I paid one million gold pieces as a "weregild." I had nearly two million by this point, so I said sure. They gave me a Rallying Horn. Upstairs, the Baron's Council asked me to sign a parchment that "pledges [me] to reinstate the traditional rights and privileges stolen by Trebor!" I agreed and got a Signet Ring.
    
Sure. I'll never take it off.
     
Finally, the Duke's Council noted my "god-given sword" (I guess it was important to get that), the support I'd achieved from the various groups, and my having lain Lord Trebor to rest. They asked if I was "willing to prove [my] courage and nobility by accepting single combat" from each of them, using no allies nor spells. I said why not.
       
There's going to be six severed heads here soon.
        
It turned out I didn't need to fight the combats. "By thy willingness to accept the challenge, in conditions most unfavorable to thyself," Duke Akbar said, I had proven my chivalry.
     
Looking around at his fellow dukes, Akbar continues: "Because of all that thou hast become, and for the many fine deeds thou hast done for the good of the realm, we have decided to offer to thee rulership of all of our lands and estates in the hope that thou wilt govern justly, and reunite our strife-torn dominions. We would have an end to this constant warring between our people and the many monsters that dwell in the planes adjoining ours.

"Thou art our best hope to stride the worlds. Wilt thee give up thy quest for the Mystical Amulet and accept the title of overlord with all its power and responsibility? Consider our offer carefully, for only once will it be offered! Wilt thee assume now the throne and take the crown?"
       
It's a trap!
         
I said yes. Everyone started shouting "Long live the overlord Werdna!" and "Vivant!" But the mood was spoiled by a whisper in my ear: "Remember--a favor owed . . . someday . . . be seeing you! Cackle Cackle." This was, of course, the hag who had made the Daub of Puce. But I couldn't have gotten here without it, so there's no way to get this ending without this ominous warning. I wonder what Adams had in mind for the payoff for this.
  
The endgame continued with a "future historical footnote":
      
Under your benign and enlightened rulership, the realm will enter a golden age of pace and plenty. The evil acts of the past will be forgiven, and your people will surely remember you fondly! But even so, as the years pass, you will always wonder . . .

"Have you forgotten something?"
      
That final line had me casting curses at the screen, but in kind of a good way. The game earned that one.
    
Go #$*@ yourself.
       
There were a few more congratulatory screens. I was awarded the rank of "Wizardry Master Adventurer." There was some text emphasizing that there are other potential endings ("Freedom of choice is one of the great gifts of Lord Maya!"). Then it gave me three code numbers for some reason.
        
What do these get for me?
     
Whew. Sorry these Werdna entries have been so killer long. In addition to potential alternate endings, there are lots of smaller questions I want to answer:
   
  • What would the guilds say if I didn't have their items?
  • What if I turned evil again after getting my pardon but before visiting the dukes?
  • What if I dropped the sword or any of the other objects before visiting the dukes?
  • What if I didn't have the objects they required when visiting the guilds?
  • What does this Void Transducer do?
  • Do HAMAN and MAHAMAN work after I've turned good?
  • Will Boltac's sell to me if I'm good?
  • Can I get the lych-gate if I'm evil?
   
So we're not done with the game. Expect the answers to those questions soon. In the meantime, I can finally say that I've won The Return of Werdna, and I did it with only one outright spoiler (TREBOR SUX) and having had to un-ROT-13 only one hint (to do with the Cuisinart). I feel pretty good about that.
   
Time so far: 64 hours

120 comments:

  1. Congratulations on finally laying this landmark to rest!

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    1. Congrats on returning to this so many years later and getting your "Win" column bumped.

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    2. It does feel like a longstanding "to do" item finally accomplished.

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  2. Nice, congrats! Finishing Wizardry IV without spoilers and Fate: Gates of Dawn must be a pretty exclusive club.

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  3. Well then, congratulations, Master Adventurer!

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  4. The whole endgame sequence (outside) seemed like an anti-climactic easter egg.

    Well done, though.

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    1. It kind of is, yes. You'll see once Chet starts posting the entries on the other endings.

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    2. I'm really looking forward to seeing what he thinks of the Grand Master ending, which I think is remarkably innovative (note: this is not the same thing as "good", but I'll wait until the post to hash that out).

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    3. Once you reach the castle the switches from crpg with some adventure puzzles to an adventure with some crpg aspects, quite a tonal shift. The grandmaster ending is interesting in that to reach the starting point for it , it requires a conceptual leap, a pretty big one — but one that makes some sense after you do it. From there i is pretty easy, you just might have to do a little research/guessing about an outside topic.

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    4. This ending reminded me of a certain sequence in the movie the Green Knight...

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    5. Hah. Wouldn't that have been something? Werdna stands on the ramparts of his castle, arms spread, as the people below call out his name: "Werdna! Werdna! Werdna!" But something suddenly seems wrong. Why are their chants slowing and deepening? Why are they suddenly sounding like "Weeeeerrrrrrrdnaaaaaa . . ."?

      With a start, Werdna comes to his senses and finds himself back in his tomb on Level 10 of the dungeon. He still hasn't found his way out of the first 2 x 2 room. There's no magical pentagram, no allies. And Trebor is coming.

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  5. I am thoroughly impressed! I consider Wiz4 to be the Mt. Everest of RPGs. Hell, I struggled mightily to finish it while having a walkthrough right beside me. Congratulations!

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  6. "What is bad attic Latin?"

    In German we have the expression 'K├╝chenlatein' (kitchen Latin) for someone with no firm grasp on the language, who still remembers some proverbs, vocabulary or declinations from school. I'd reckoned that 'attic Latin' was the English equivalent to that, can anybody confirm this?

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    1. Since the guard is a hoplite, I'm guessing that it's actually "bad Attic Latin", i.e. Latin as spoken by someone from the Attica region of Greece (which is the sorta-peninsula where Athens is located).

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    2. Good point, couldn't get my mind off the crawlspace beneath the roof. Attica, I get it now...

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    3. Well done, tetrapod. That's the difficulty when the game uses all capital letters by default. I'll edit "Attic" to the capitalized version above. I would have thought the adjectival was "Attican"

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    4. stepped pyramidsJuly 31, 2022 at 4:35 PM

      I think it's a reference to Attic Greek, the main dialect of "classical Greek", but the switch to Latin beats me. The final floor in Wiz1 has some dog Latin ("contra dextra avenue") in addition to "Trebor sux", so maybe that's meant as a very obscure reminder?

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  7. Also, congratulations on beating this torture mill of a dungeon crawler...

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  8. The LPArchive has a playthrough of Wizardry IV that includes the entire Softline magazine article about the Softalk all-stars in question, including illustrations of the team, and written by Roe Adams. If we're still worried about spoilers I wouldn't read anything other than that, because the LP is completionist and goes into great detail about exactly how to get all the endings.

    https://lparchive.org/Wizardry-IV/Update%2014/

    Several years ago I wrote an Ultima series retrospective for Hardcoregaming101, and I regret that this wasn't available as a source, because the LP author also goes into great depth on the contributions Roe Adams also made to Ultima and the Bard's Tale and further info on his own character Hawkwind.

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    1. LOL "a playthrough." Its CROOKED BEE'S playthrough, not that the Addict would acknowledge that, particuarly since its a lot more informative than his own blog postings.

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    2. Wtf is wrong with you?

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    3. I don't even understand what's happening here. Anonymous is upset that I didn't credit an author whose work I didn't use?

      Anyway, thanks for the link, bladededge. I look forward to looking it over once I've wrapped up my own coverage, insufficient as anonymous seems to think it is.

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    4. Sadly, like most entries on the Archive, that link only includes the stuff Crooked Bee wrote, and (like most games featured on the LP Archive) the original Something Awful thread has a ton of great content mentioned from other posters. Starting from the first page, for example, there's a guy posting comparisons from the PS1 Japanese remake.

      It probably isn't worth paying $20 ($10 for an account, $10 for access to archived threads) to read them, but it is something of a loss.

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    5. Look, there are people out there who get abused all the time, and because of that they think that's how people relate to one another. So that's what they do. I wouldn't pay it any attention.

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    6. My guess is that this has something to do with Chet's small but dedicated, uh, "fanbase" on a certain forum.

      Delete
    7. It's all the more absurd since:

      a) as he himself mentions above, it wasn't Chet in his post, but rather bladededge in his comment who brought up the LP, and

      b) Chet has made reference to LPs and interviews by Crooked Bee before on this blog and AFAIK always mentioned CB expressly there and usually also linked to the source.

      But I guess we are all already spending too many thoughts and too much time on a trolling anonymous comment.

      Delete
  9. Congratulations I think that ws the first ending I found, I had to cheat on the Trebor Sux one. The game really switches tone from a crpg with challenging mapping to an adventure game. I don’t think you will have any difficulty with most of the remaining endings, but there is one that is much harder to find. (I ended up getting a hint from Roe Adams at a convention to find it — pre internet walkthrough times). The SCA references are through the roof in the segment you just finished.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I've written a few posts ahead, and I think I've experienced all the endings by now. I had to un-ROT-13 some earlier hints to get the special ending you're talking about.

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    2. Ah, OK, I was going to suggest you go for that one, but wasn't at all sure how to nudge you there (since its very existence is difficult to determine) without spoilers.

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  10. Congrats on your win. You made it with less spoilers than I did.

    But I wonder what kind of a nerd you are who don't know "TREBOR SUX" or what a donjon is.

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  11. "Roe Adams worked on Ultima IV, for heaven's sake. There was a real opportunity here for some role-playing choices."
    Considering Adams is supposed to be the one who made the virtue system in that game, you'd think he actually would take that opportunity to do something interesting with alignment. It even fits in with the difficulty of the game!

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    Replies
    1. Exactly what I meant. I have to wonder if Adams didn't try all those goofy nerd references and SCA in-jokes at Origin, but his supervisors put a stop to it and just kept his best ideas. The annals of RPG history are full of examples of the phrase, "There are no good authors without good editors."

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  12. Congratulations on finishing this (in?)famous game. You must be pretty happy, and so am I, because the ending was a bit too self-referencing or Easter-eggy to make a good narration.

    Trivia : In French, "donjon" is always "main tower of a castle" and never a prison cell. Dungeons & Dragons was nonetheless (logically) translated as "Donjons & Dragons" ; joking about the poor translation has been staple of French tabletop RPG, making it for instance in the French version of Dungeon of Naheulbeuk.

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  13. stepped pyramidsJuly 31, 2022 at 4:12 PM

    Congratulations! One thing I want to note is that many players would have arrived at the castle without the full set of items and info required to accomplish any of the endings. In investigating your list of questions, you'll get a better idea of what that experience would have been like.

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    Replies
    1. That's a good point. My desire to make sure everything is "done" before I leave a level led me to this particular experience. If I were replaying, knowing now that MALOR works once you leave the dungeon, I probably would just head for each stairway as quickly as possible and then use MALOR to get the special encounters once I've exited.

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    2. Paradoxically, without a playstyle similar to yours, I'm not so sure how one would ever obtain the hand grenade that's used to enter the city in the first place.

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    3. Yeah, I don't think many players that made it this far would be the kind to NOT explore each floor in detail and return to earlier floors to solve unfinished puzzles. They might be missing the puce dab, but not the other items.

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  14. Great work! Congratulations.

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  15. About the EGA thing, I kept wanting to mention it, but every time I wanted to show the one thing that I cared about the entry was already old. Gotcha now, you do-gooders!!!

    I'd largely call EGA unnecessary, because all it does is swap the bright magenta for pinkish-red. This usually only results in slightly better skin tone colours for the do-gooder portraits. However, there IS one cutscene/splash screen where I think it enhances the grisly mood:
    https://i.imgur.com/o4RSCnh.png
    Ouch. It also helps that I think the Hell death messages are some of the game's better prose, and more seriously-written to boot. The descriptions remind me of "thy shrivelled mind be left naked to the Lidless Eye".

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    Replies
    1. That's why I didn't really bother. I mean, I have the whole thing where color isn't really important to me in the first place, but also the graphics in this game aren't really good enough or important enough to spend too much time worrying about color settings. I would agree on that particular image, though.

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    2. I find it weird that the EGA mode only uses four colors, considering the Apple II version of the game does use sixteen colors.

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    3. It isn't really "EGA mode", the game only supports CGA quality graphics. It's just that EGA is backwards compatible with CGA, except for one rarely used CGA feature/trick (using red instead of magenta), which wasn't carried over to EGA (or VGA).

      Besides setting DOSBox to CGA, setting it to Tandy graphics also gives you red instead of magenta on any of Wizardry 1-5 (still 4 colors only, while Tandy could do 16) -- I guess that's why the box said "Tandy 1000 supported". All other configurations (EGA, VGA, SVGA, etc.) give you magenta.

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    4. @Dehumanizer: Excellent point. I want to add that, though it doesn't matter for this particular game, but Tandy mode adds three-channel sound to games that feature it, rather than the other modes' bleeps and bloops. More of a thing for Sierra style adventure games, but I thought I'd mention it in case some reader didn't know.

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    5. CGA has fixed color palettes. EGA allows mapping any of the 4 CGA colors into any of the 16 EGA colors. So they were running in a standard 4 color CGA mode but could pick which 4 colors out of the 16 EGA 16 color palette. Nothing spectacular but still helpful.

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    6. judd9: right. Tandy was basically low-resolution (320x200) EGA (it didn't include high-res modes used in contemporary games such as Flight Simulator 3 and 4) and 3 sound channels plus a noise channel. This is the best configuration for all Sierra AGI games (unless you count the Apple IIGS). :)

      Anonymous: true, but in this case I think it's simpler: the game (like all Wizardries before 6) doesn't even "know" such as thing as EGA exists, it detects CGA graphics (which EGA, VGA and later are backwards compatible with) and that's what it uses. The "replace magenta with red" trick doesn't work unless you have true hardware CGA (or DOSBox in CGA mode), so you get magenta in those cases.

      They *did* add some very minor support for Tandy graphics, apparently, but only to, again, replace red with magenta. Either that, or (I don't know) Tandy *is* more backwards compatible with CGA than EGA and VGA are?

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    7. Tandy graphics and sound are very close to PC Jr graphics and sound, often interchangeable. So if using an emulator always try both. Both Tandy and PC-Jr graphics are very CGA backward compatible, much more so than EGA or VGA. Unfortunately they are forward compatible with nothing so were a dead end until DOSBox.

      I owned a Tandy 1000 and it took me awhile to discover that PC-Jr games would usually run on it with improved graphics and sound over the PC version.

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  16. I'll just add my congrats here. Truly excellent work! I've never had the guts to even attempt this one.

    ReplyDelete
  17. **ERR** probably means "Error", as in computer software.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes. I don't know if it's an actual (real world) error or if it's a sign that the Oracle is a computer in-game.

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    2. I'm wondering if the Oracle saying **ERR** was meant to be some sort of play on the fact that "Oracle" could refer both to a giver of divine revelations and a multi-model database management system first released in 1979. I'm not sure if the latter ever gave error notifications using **ERR**, though—that was a bit before my time.

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    3. Being an IT guy, my instinct is to agree with Anonymous here. The Oracle's programming probably uses the equivalent of a database query like (in pseudocode, this isn't actual SQL, of course) "select random entry from (list of entries that haven't shown up yet)", and in this case maybe the player has exhausted the list, so the query returns a "null" result, and that's what's shown here... at least the game doesn't crash. :)

      Also, a sound of hesitation is usually written as "er" (one R), while "err" looks just like a programmer's abbreviation of "error". :)

      All of this could, of course, be completely wrong...

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    4. The Oracle doesn't pick clues at random, he gives them out in a predetermined order. But yes, I believe Chet has exhausted all his clues.

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    5. A sign that the Oracle is a computer? I always thought that to err was human!

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    6. And to format, divine. I... got nothin'.

      Delete
  18. stepped pyramidsJuly 31, 2022 at 7:04 PM

    Did you ever use the Mordorcharge card to buy hints from the Oracle?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Addict, read this only if you're a true completionist,(ROT-13): unir lbh sbetbggra fbzrguvat

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    2. It's not worth going back for, now that you've wrapped up the game, but it results in possibly the most goofy and dated pop culture joke I've ever seen in a game. It makes the reference to the MTA song seem timeless and grounded.

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    3. Well, that's a funny coincidence. I just rewatched A Streetcar Named Desire last night, and now we have a Karl Malden reference.

      For everyone else's benefit: if you try to use the MordorCharge card to pay the Oracle, the Oracle recognizes it as having been stolen from Captain Thorin (the guy you looted it from), and "Karl Maudlin" steps out of a cable car and says, "What will you do? What will you do? I'll tell you what you will do! You won't leave home!" And then you wake up on Level 10 again.

      SP is correct at how dated that reference is. Here's what it's referring to:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSyDUeRoDb0

      I can't find one in which he steps out of a cable car.

      The worst part is that Karl Malden advertised American Express traveler's cheques, not the credit card.

      It's too bad the current generation mostly won't remember Karl Malden. He's such a memorable actor with such a precise way of speaking. His last acting role was in one of my favorite episodes of The West Wing, and it's just perfect:

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QfLZrPq136I

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    4. How much worse does West Wing get after Sorkin leaves?

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    5. To me, it goes from one of the top five shows of all time to maybe one of the top 15. I don't think the difference is as stark as some people do. Sorkin established the characters and style of the show, and those things don't go away just because he's no longer writing every script.

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    6. They wisely switch from showing bits of Bartlett's speeches to just having people reflect on how good they were while afterward.

      Delete
  19. Congrats, great work! If, in the future, you get an itch for checking off unfinished games and for lots of old school mapping and annotation, I would love to someday see the conquest of The Bards Tale 2 and/or 3 in your style.

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    Replies
    1. I wanted to write the same. Let me add: you might (re)play the Bard's Tale trilogy on the Apple 2, thus having the option of importing characters from Wizardry 1-2-3 or Ultima 3 and later export them to Dragon Wars, Deathlord, and Centauri Alliance.

      Congratulations on conquering Wizardry 4. Thank you for playing it, so that we don't have to (old line resumed for an old game).

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    2. I like(d) BT, too, but the addict has made it clear when he played the games for this blog for the first time that he regards them as rather torturous from the second onward. IIRC too boring for his taste because too linear. So as much as I'd like to see these getting a thorough examination I wouldn't even be happy myself to see someone suffer through them.

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    3. I'll just wait patiently to see what the man himself does or says, and make my suggestions for what I would like to see.

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    4. Of the two, I gave BT2 the least chance, and last year I had vague plans to return to it, but the summer ended before I could get to it. I probably will give it another try someday. On the other hand, I got pretty deep into BT3 and never warmed to it.

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    5. The worst problem with BT2, imo, is that at the final dungeon is a simple quick-draw to see if you get the Dream Spell off first or not, eventually followed by how long your now solo Monk can go mapping before (s)he bites it.

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    6. iirc the main BT3 problem was that you played the bugged PC version which did not give out harmonic gems as treasure like it's supposed to. This caused you to not have any way to recharge spell points except waiting in sunlight or in certain dungeon squares that allow recharge, which means just sitting there with the game on but not playing it for lengthy stretches.

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    7. No, the main problem is that BT3 is a boring game in which you have an absurdly over-leveled party. Having to stand around waiting for magic points to recharge just made it more time-consuming.

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    8. Ouch, don't hold back, say what you really think! I just can't help myself though, not giving up on those BT games. Maybe I'll wait a few years before I mention it again now.

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    9. Are you thinking of doing it as a Remastered? I remember that the remastered version probably fixed the bugs in the DOS version or the classic version.

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  20. The Blade Cuisinart' puzzle is another of those tests of Wizardry knowledge. It's by far the most iconic weapon in the franchise, so the assumption was that the kind of Wizardry nerds the game is aimed at would realize that the inventory item the witch calls a "blender" is a Blade Cuisinart' and then start checking the weapons dropped by enemies in search of one.

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    Replies
    1. Not a wizardry nerd but i thougt it was a Mighty and Magic 2 reference

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    2. It's not. On the contrary, the Cuisinart in Might and Magic 2 was almost certainly a Wizardry reference.

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  21. How random -- I was just chatting with my colleagues last week about "The Emperor's New Clothes", a movie I hadn't thought about in thirty years, and here it's cited on your blog too! None of my colleagues had seen or even heard of it. I doubt they would recognize Wizardry IV, either!

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  22. "What is their symbol? A peppermint Life Saver?"

    It's part of the magazine's logo, I think:

    https://www.softalkapple.com/sites/default/files/images/sample_pgs/Softalk_v1.02_pg-cv1.jpg

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  23. Ok, this just bothers me. It's "dispel", not "dispell".

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The early Wizardry games always spelled it with two l's.

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    2. I'm surre thhey doo, but itt's stilll wrrong.

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    3. Indeed. They started spelling it correctly with 5, I think. Probably got a lot of letters correcting them.

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    4. A "dis spell" would be a conjuration of infernal fire; a "diss spell" would be a sorcery that insults your target; and I supose a "dish spell" would create food. However, the word "dispel" comes from none of these, and just like "repel" and "expel" it has a single L.

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    5. I think people get confused by "misspell," which is mis + spell. But as Radiant points out, "dispel" isn't dis + spell, but rather dis + pel.

      The funny thing is, "dispel" originally meant "drive away." You might say something like, "I'm off to dispel the crows from the west field." But these days, we use it more to mean "remove a spell or illusion," and I can only imagine the change in meaning happened under the influence of people thinking that its roots were dis + spell.

      Perhaps CRPGs should use the term "unspell."

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    6. Have you heard about the wizard who only knows two tricks? One's Dispell; the other is Datspell.

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    7. If dispel came from "dis + spell" then it would be spelled "disspell", just as how "misspell" has two S'es.

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    8. Words change over time. Especially in American English, our tendency is to simplify spelling. Color, eon, encyclopedia, program, maneuver. You see it happening "live" with "donut." God help me, if Thanos appeared in the real world and wanted to snap the portion of the population that thinks "ppl" is okay, I'd become one of his henchmen. But it's probably already a lost cause.

      We particularly remove a lot of double-ls: canceled, traveler, counselor, disheveled. It would be perfectly logical to look at dispel and think it had once been dis + spell, especially where it has that meaning.

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    9. Very insight- and usefulll!

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    10. Voltgloss - You probably won't be surprised that that pun is used in the Robert Asprin book... uh... Class Dis-Mythed I think?

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    11. From its first edition, tabletop D&D had a spell to remove other magic, called "dispel magic" (as in, "drive away magic"). I suspect this is why people started associating the verb "dispel" with spells in particular, similar how people started using "nimrod" as an insult because of a Looney Tunes cartoon, decades ago.

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    12. If I recall, "Nimrod" as an insult predates the cartoons by a few thousand years. Nimrod was a character in the Bible. He was an ancient king, I think responsible for attempting to build the Tower of Babel. God destroyed the tower, and he was considered a fool from then on.

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    13. No, Nimrod is just mentioned as being a great hunter. Bugs uses it sarcastically on Elmer.

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    14. To over-explain, kids, and maybe many adults, just didn't get the Biblical allusion to a guy who was only mentioned in The Bible as being a great hunter. So it simply came across as being some kind of hilarious insult.

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    15. Getting back to the original discussion--and it was Daffy Duck, incidentally, not Bugs--a Google search of books from 1900 to 1970 turns up phrases like "dispel the sensation," "dispel the impression," "dispel the darkness," and "dispel such delusion." Almost all of its uses are for intangible or ephemeral things, not physical things. While substituting the words "drive away" works in all of those phrases, so does something like "cause to disappear, as if the original thing was the result of a spell." If people were using "dispel" for physical things, that connotation wouldn't make sense.

      In other words, my thesis is that people unconsciously made a connection between "dispel" and "spell" a long time ago and stopped using the word for things that didn't go along with that mistaken etymology. From there, the idea that the word must be spelled "dispell" or "disspell" can be understood. I'm sure that D&D's "Dispel Magic" accelerated this perception, but I doubt it was the cause.

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    16. "Nimrod" is an insult meaning "bad hunter" the same way "Einstein" is an insult meaning "idiot" and "William Tell" is an insult meaning "bad shot". So yes, it's quite likely it was in use before Daffy used it in that short. What the short did lead to was kids misinterpreting "nimrod" as a generic insult instead of a very specific sarcastic one.

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    17. Man, my friends say "Lee Harvey" instead of "William Tell." Maybe I need better friends.

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    18. A hunter, yes, but also a king: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nimrod

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  24. Congratulations! Looking forward to your experiences of the other endings.

    I think "a dab of puce" is OK, along the lines of "a touch of blue." But puce isn't a shade of blue, so I don't know what's up with that!

    ReplyDelete
  25. Way to go, congratulations! By the way do you have a list of your most challenging/hardest crpgs beasts? Would be interesting... keep it up!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Search for the Google spreadsheet link ("game ranking so far") at the right side of page (not available on mobile, only desktop version). All games are listed, then search for the "Difficulty" column and organize it the way you prefer.

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    2. Yeah, that's probably the best way to do it. If a game forced me to look at spoilers or has permadeath (a lot of the top games by difficulty are roguelikes), there's a good chance it shows up here.

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  26. "Margot and Al" would be Margot Comstock and Al Tommervik, who financed Softalk. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Softalk
    IIRC, Margot was the publisher and/or senior editor. She was also active in Mensa, won on Password, and was the first to solve some major puzzle games. Again dredging up old memories, I think she said she was the first to solve Robert Williams' Timezone mega-adventure game.

    Although another memory tickle is the Roe Adams once told me he was the first to complete one of the early Sierra games, so I may have some crossed memory lines. I think I met both of them at a Hackers Conference, which was inspired by Hackers, by Steven Levy. There was a lot of crossover between early game developers and people who wrote about them.

    I also met Robert Woodhead (Trebor), Andrew Greenberg (Werdna), Bruce Webster (co-designer/developer of Sundog: Frozen Legacy), and many other early RPG developers at some of the Hackers Conferences. I had a tough time each year, deciding whether to attend Hackers or GDConf.

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    Replies
    1. That's Roe who the Time Zone story is about. (When I played it recently on my blog I kept a timer, which I don't normally do, just to test if his story was plausible.)

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    2. By the looks of it, I would have found Time Zone as difficult as Wiz IV. That is to say, I would have recorded a time of 'DNF'.

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    3. @Corey: The Sierra game Margot Comstock solved first was "Mystery House" (according to e.g. https://www.apple2history.org/history/ah20/).

      Fun fact tying back in with CRPGs: She is also mentioned in the manual of 'The Dark Heart of Uukrul' as one of the playtesters. Makes sense for a game which contains quite a few elaborate puzzles.

      [And since it's just so fitting regarding the anonymous comment above complaining Chet wouldn't give Crooked Bee credit, here is the introduction to his rating post on that game:

      "In my first posting on The Dark Heart of Uukrul, PetrusOctavianus linked me to an interview that RPGCodex resident (and die-hard CRPG Addict fan) Crooked Bee completed with the Uukrul developers, Ian Boswell and Martin Buis. The interview, preceded by a nice review of the game, is worth a read because it offers a broad view of the game that my own writing has not provided."]

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  27. It's impressive how fiendishly challenging the game is. But it's ultimately done in consideration of the player as the content is funneled into multiple endings. It takes... But it gives. Salute to both of you!

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  28. Mildly disappointed that there was never a post titled "Wizardry 4: To Tiltowait at Windmills", but congratulations!

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    Replies
    1. I was waiting for a post titled, or a comment offering hints starting with, 'A Werdna to the Wise'.

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    2. I had "TILTOWAIT a Minute, Mr. Postman" ready to go if there was ever a mail angle.

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    3. Somehow this made me think of the Beastie Boys.

      No. Sleep. Tiltowait.

      Delete
  29. I'm pleased you managed to cross this one off your list after so many years unfinished! Looking forward to the GIMLET, maybe you'll talk about your growth as a CRPG player from the early days of the blog to today.

    ReplyDelete
  30. Did you mean the 2001 movie The Emperor's New Clothes with Ian Holm? There is a 1991 one but I think that's an animated movie that's about the Hans Christian Anderson fairy tale

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I meant the 2001 one. Typo.

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    2. Thanks for the clarification. Now I know which to seek out.

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  31. The way you played (eventually-)Good Werdna as a merciless, thorough, unstoppable but kindly giver of gifts that somehow predicted and possesses in advance what items every single person in the kingdom needed, while summoning hordes of demons to his aid to punish the wicked makes him less of an evil wizard bent on revenge and more of a traditional Saint Nicholas type character complete with Krampus.

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  32. Congratulations, dear Addict! Very impressive to knock this one off your list. It was a unique experience to read about it.

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  33. OK, I fell behind a bit when vacation ended, but this is the first game you've finished since I started reading in real time again

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1. Do not link to any commercial entities, including Kickstarter campaigns, unless they're directly relevant to the material in the associated blog posting. (For instance, that GOG is selling the particular game I'm playing is relevant; that Steam is having a sale this week on other games is not.) This also includes user names that link to advertising.

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