Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swords and Wizardry ... and Wizardry

Chgowiz's Ultima project has got me thinking about one of my old favorites; Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. 

As a kid I spent many hours completely enraptured by this game. My Uncle gave my family an Apple 2+ one year and it eventually found itself in my sole possession. There were a few games to be had among the disks it came with among them was Wizardry and its strange little booklet.

I had no idea of the implications of its digest format and box. The spell lists and the magic words that cast them bore no resemblance to any game I had played before. The artwork was humorous, in stark contrast to the brutality of the game it adorned. 

I wish I knew how many thousands of characters I sent to their doom in that dungeon. For years I was toiled on the first two levels before ever finding the elevator. I knew nothing of "Identify Item 9" and other such easter eggs.

Toiling in those dungeons became a science. Eventually I had memorized all the spells, just as my characters had. Rescue expeditions had extracted numerous slain heroes from the depths. I struggled to map the depths of the place yet never succeeded in any great degree. 

How could a game so sparse in options be so captivating? 
There was an inn, for recruiting and equipping your party. A trading post for the buying and selling of goods and a temple for curing and raising the dead. Those locations were inside the castle and at the edge of town was the maze. There was no overland adventuring. You were either in town or in the dungeon. You were either dead or your were alive. 

Identifying items was tantamount to success as was having a thief - you could forget about opening a chest without one in your party.  

Friendly factions were also in the dungeon. Surprise could tip the scales in a single round. 

Flavor text was rare. Few places in the dungeon held a description of any kind. 

There was no plot other than to reach the bottom and kill the badguy.

Werdna, you son of a bitch.

I never got him. Not once.

Not yet.

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