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    Wizardry: Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord

    Game » consists of 9 releases. Released September 1981

    The first chapter of what would become one of the defining series for PC-based RPGs, this instant classic pit a group of adventurers against the evil wizard, Werdna, in a quest for an amulet that they must retrieve for Trebor, the Mad Overlord.

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    Wizardry is a first-person, grid-based, RPG that had helped to set many standards within the PC-RPG genre with its graphical interface and gameplay mechanics. It is regarded as the first true party-based RPG for computers and one of the first to feature a game system styled after TSR's Dungeons and Dragons. At the time, its graphical capabilities and gameplay mechanics were considered revolutionary and innovative for PCs.

    After assembling their party of adventurers, the player will confront many challenges and puzzles as they attempt to penetrate the dangers surrounding the ten-level Maze. The gameplay style of the title has been compared to that of a dungeon crawl in which players simply fight monsters for experience, treasure, and the necessary equipment to deal with the wizard, Werdna.

    The relatively simple and clear interface is organized around a series of commands and actions listed at the bottom of the screen as well as a combined inventory and statistics screen.

    Completing Wizardry was required if the player wished to transfer characters into the next two sequels, Wizardry II: Knight of Diamonds and Wizardry III: Legacy of Llylgamyn.

    Among the other features of the game were:

    • Over 50 spells were available for casting
    • 4 basic classes to choose from and four elite classes to upgrade to
    • 5 races to create classes with

    The game did not have any copy protection and creating a Scenario Diskette was needed in order the game on. The CD-ROM version of the game automatically circumvented this by creating one on the drive when installed.

    The manual was also noteworthy for being written in a way that made Wizardry appear appealing to newcomers with little to no experience with an RPG. Illustrated with humorous drawings and a great deal of detail worked into its text. A section walked a player through a fictional scenario that might occur within the game while explaining its concepts with several examples.


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    Wizardry's story is firmly rooted within fantasy and is considered the first module in a set of four that would end with Wizardry IV: The Return of Werdna.

    The Land of Llylgamyn is the home to many legends. It is considered the center of commerce and the home of an academy where the bravest would train themselves. It was ruled by a monarchy with a royal family, but as time passed, power shifted to the aristocrats and the theocrats and eventually, the royal family became a symbol of the land than a central source of power.

    Under a more democratic system, the High Council of Sages appointed an overlord to govern over the kingdom, eliminating any power that hte royal family had left. The Overlord, Trebor, was a former warrior and a local hero. He governed wisely at first, but his thirst for power eventually led him to search for ways in which to expand his power. Eventually, through unknown means, he discovered the existence of an ancient amulet kept in a forgotten temple outside of the kingdom. According to legend, it had great powers that were the stuff that legends were made of. Founding an expedition, he sent his best men out to find the temple and retrieve the amulet which they did with much success.

    But only hours after the party had retrieved the amulet, an evil wizard named Werdna had follows his own trail to the amulet only to find it gone. Werdna, Trebor's arch-nemesis, was infuriated that someone had gotten to it first and using his considerable talents, used magic to discover who it was. When he found that it was Trebor, he plotted and schemed of a way to steal the amulet away.

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    As Trebor and a group of sages sat in his throne room studying the amulet, a great terror suddenly froze them cold as if the shadow of death has passed across their faces. When they came to, they discovered that his amulet was gone. Werdna knew that once they had recovered their senses, they would immediately cast their suspicions towards him. He couldn't return to his tower and wait for them to come for him anyway, so he needed a new place in which to hide. He decided on a bold plan. Werdna decided to use the amulet to make a new home right beneath the city of Llylgamym itself!

    There was enough underground mining activity already and he should be able to go unnoticed within its depths. Upon the thought of this plan, the amulet began to glow. Suddenly, a tremendous earthquake shook the area and Werdna suddenly found himself within a giant, ten-level labyrinth in the ground below the city. Summoning monsters as allies, he made his way to the lowest levels where he could study the powers of the amulet undisturbed. In away, he also felt that he was secretly taunting his arch-nemesis by hiding right beneath his very nose with the object of his desire.

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    Trebor became unhinged at losing the amulet and surrounded himself with an elite guard of the best characters from each class all the while plotting to get his amulet back. He knew that the underground Maze was where his enemy had fled, but he could not get to him even with the best at his command. A year following his discovery of the Maze, he had managed to secure the first four floors. Most of the warriors that went deeper, however, never returned.

    Trebor ordered the the passages to the deeper areas of the Maze sealed thus preventing the creatures there from finding their way to the surface. He also ordered that traps be set in the first three levels. Once all of this was done, he declared the Maze a Proving Ground for new cadets at the academy to prove their worth in the hopes of becoming one of the Elite guards. Trebor further sweetened the pot by saying that upon discovering the 'secret prize' at the lowest levels of the Maze.

    Those that survived their way down to the fourth level would be told the real reason for the Maze and the traps. The first four levels were only a test to see if those that survived were worthy of taking on the final challenges past them. It was then that they were told of Werdna and the amulet and be given permission to head deeper into the dungeon.

    Any adventurers who did recover the amulet would be inducted into his Elite guard, even by force if it comes to that. This is the situation that the player's party will find themselves in and it is from Trebor's castle that they will start their journey.

    A journal entry from an adventurer named Hawkwind has also set the tone for the adventure to follow as he relates the story of his party getting ready to invade the the lower levels of the dungeon. He goes on to describe the pleasures that each of his party dream about in succeeding with their quest.

    The journal describes how they made their way through zigzagging corridors down to the lower levels, suddenly discovering a secret door. Kicking it open, they enter the room and engage in battle against a myriad number of terrible beasts: hellhouds, demons, and even creeping coins. They fight their best, shaking the walls, and with a combination of hard steel and fantastic magic, destroy the enemy.

    In the terrible battle, they discover a chute leading down into the bowels of the dungeon to the final level, setting the stage for the characters to do the same.

    Ultimately, an unlikely group of characters prove themselves worthy of the challenge and manage to find their way down into the final level, confronting Werdna, and seizing back the amulet. As a reward, Trebor makes them Elite Guards and awards them a chevron for their troubles along with quite a prize in treasure.


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    Wizardry is a tile, or grid based movement, first-person RPG starting out within the Castle that serves as the base for party management and the Maze in which the adventure takes place. Party size is limited to six members, although smaller parties are even allowed but not suggested for survival. The player must find penetrate the dangers and mysteries of the Maze in order to seize a magical amulet held by the evil wizard, Werdna. But, in order to do, the party must also negotiate the Maze and deal with its dangerous inhabitants as well as solve the puzzles that stand in their way.

    The Maze comprises the central theater for the adventure and is comprised of several levels, each with its own distinct dangers and puzzles to solve. The lack of an automap means that the player is required to draw his or her own maps or otherwise rely on unofficial game guides and walkthroughs in order to navigate the mazelike multi-level dungeon.

    Saves could only be made anywhere, but Wizardry's setup on PCs had an additional side-benefit to doing so. It would allow players to quick-save their progress and quit out of the scenario and if they chose to start at the Castle with a fresh party, they could wander back into the Maze and even encounter their old party where they had left them. This was also treated as a backup in case of PC failure. The party would be marked as OUT until the player decided to restart the group or create another party of adventurers and headed down to find them.

    Levels were earned after gaining the requisite experience as well as resting at the Inn back at the Castle. It was possible to continue adventuring well after the previous experience limit was met and earning several levels at once after a restful stay at the Inn.

    The Castle

    This was the central location for the player's management options concerning their party. Here, several locations were available by hotkey:

    • Gilgamesh's Tavern - A dim and smoke filled place with a perpetual haunch of boar roasting over the fire, small groups of adventurers congregate here discussing their latest exploits or hoping to join a party. This is where the player will build their party from characters they create.
    • Adventurer's Inn - Rest is offered as long as the party can afford their stay. Several different rooms are provided ranging from the Stables to a Royal Suite, each with their own rate of healing. This is also where resting characters can level up once they have the requisite experience.
    • Temple of Cant - More severe ailments are handled here, again for the right 'donation'. Paralysis, poison, and even the dead can be brought back to a sense of normalcy after enough coins are shared with the faithful.
    • Boltac's Trading Post - A friendly dwarf named Boltac operates this in the Castle's market area, providing his services to anyone that can afford them. Arms, goods, and even his experience in identifying certain items can all be purchased with the right coin. The party can even sell their ill gotten gains here to free up their pockets for even more loot that they might come across. Boltac can even remove cursed items, although the party will also lose the item once it's "uncursed."
    • Edge of Town - From here, the party can visit the Training Grounds, enter the Maze, or head back to the Castle.
    • The Maze - Many adventurers seeking fame, glory, and experience eagerly dive into the dangers of the Maze otherwise known as the Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord.
    • Training Grounds - New characters are created here and players can also inspect older characters to see if they need a few changes of their own.

    Picking Locks and Disarming Traps

    There were no locks to pick in the game. Disarming traps, on the other hand, on treasure chests, was much more different. A character with the proper skill could inspect the chest and determine what kind of trap was on it. Once they made their assessment, it was up to the player to disarm the trap by opting to do so and then typing the trap's name in. If they are correct, the trap is disarmed. Spells could also be used to help disarm chests.


    This command allowed the party to camp out in the middle of the dungeon. This also enabled the player to inspect their party members and also re-order their party's marching order. This also allows the player to equip their entire party at once if they so choose.

    Character Development

    The player can opt to start with the batch of pre-made character provided for them by the game or create their own.


    Characters can actually age in Wizardry V if they rest too much. Resting at the Inn can last anywhere from a single day to a year depending on how much gold the player has in reserve. Resting replenishes a party's health and stamina, readying them for the road ahead, but rest enough times and a character will start to age. But when they first start out in the game, they are at an extremely young age. Death by old age is hardly expected, but it is a possibility.


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    The character classes belong to one of two categories; Base or Elite. Base classes (Fighter, Mage, Priest, Thief) are often considered the 'starting' class for a character whereas Elite classes (Lord, Bishop, Samurai, Lord, Ninja) typically benefit from having better fighting skills and eventual proficiency in magic. The initial statistics requirements for Elite classes are noticably higher than for the Base classes, making the former much more difficult to create at the start of the game.

    As with quite a few RPGs, Wizardry includes the option to change character class during the course of the game at the Training Grounds when inspecting a character. The incentives to do so in Wizardry are comparatively strong as many abilities are retained from the original classes, and since characters who recently changed classes during mid-game can often gain levels rapidly (thus enabling the player to raise skill points and fill out spell books much faster than would otherwise have been possibly).

    Alignment largely determines what kind of class a particular character can be.

    The four basic classes are:

    • Fighter - High hit points and experts at using any weapon and piece of armor, they are a grounded class that can dish out the damage as well as take it.
    • Thief - No party is complete without a competent thief to help disarm traps. While they aren't the greatest of fighters, they rely on their sneakiness to backstab their enemies.
    • Priest - Long known as skilled healers, their talents are important for any party heading out into danger. They cannot be of neutral alignment.
    • Mage - The classic wizard. As they become more powerful, their spellbooks will continue to add many new pages filled with deadly spells.

    The four elite classes are:

    • Bishop - Like a Priest, they are able to heal their friends and dispel the undead. They are also able to uncurse items that become permanently stuck to a character, freeing them. They can also learn any spell from any of the other schools. The downside is that their learning rate is also a bit slower, so the selection of spells that they may have will take more time to develop. But they can identify items without fear of being cursed. They must not be neutral.
    • Samurai - A true swordsman. At the fourth level of experience, they begin to learn Mage spells. They cannot be of evil alignment because of their adherence to the code of Bushido.
    • Lord - Skilled as a fighter as well as being pious enough to cast a few spells, they are likened to paladins and crusader knights. They start learning priestly spells around the fourth level of experience. They can also only be of good alignment.
    • Ninja - An assassin and a rogue, they can kill with weapons or their bare hands, sometimes being able to kill the strongest enemy with a single blow. They disdain armor and become far harder to hit and tougher to kill as they gain levels. They also have all of the skills of thief and are able to disarm traps. They can also hide in shadows and ambush enemies. They must also be of evil alignment.


    The races include familiar fantasy characters such as the Elf, the Dwarf, the Gnome and the Hobbit.

    • Humans - Balanced without any serious flaws, a good, even keeled race that can belong and excel at any profession.
    • Elf - They excel at the intellectual classes, such as Mages, or Bishops. Keenly interested in study.
    • Dwarf - Gruff, short in stature, but tough and reliable, dwarves make excellent Fighters while their piety can also find them a career as a Priest.
    • Gnomes - Found underground and often overlooked by the larger races, their quiet and studious nature make them ideal as Mages or Priests.
    • Hobbit - Friendly, nimble, and otherwise unassuming, they make surprisingly decent Ninja, Samurai, or Thieves.


    Attribute scores had a maximum value of 18 and determined a variety of effects and class eligibility requirements. Many of these attributes were particularly important across many classes across a variety of skills. Characters can improve their attributes thanks to the investment of points earned with every level.

    • Strength - Determines how much damage a character can lay into a monster as well as how much weight they can carry around with them. It also affects certain weapon skills and plays into stamina
    • I.Q. - Important for spellcasters.
    • Piety - This is important for a character's ability to concentrate on the task at hand. It also affects how many spells a character may be able to learn and their effectiveness with them.
    • Vitality - Very important for hit points, the chance for resurrection, the ability to resist damage and disease, and general health.
    • Luck - Ambiguous but it also has mysterious effects on many other factors

    As with many RPGs, character development was driven by experience points which translated into levels. When a character gains a level after resting an an inn:

    • Spellcasters may be able to learn a new spell
    • Depending on their statistics, a character may even change their class
    • Hit points will also improve


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    Combat in Wizardry was a turn based affair with random encounters providing the cannon fodder that would feed the party's thirst for experience points. When enemies encountered the party, a list of enemies along with a picture showing what they were onscreen would appear.

    Similar to other RPGs of the era, its strict turn-based system halts the passage of time until the player performs an action (such as moving around or casting spells). In combat, the order in which characters act is determined primarily by their statistics, although the player issues orders to every character in the party before commencing a turn. Besides using melee and/or ranged weapons and casting spells, characters with the appropriate skills can hide (which means enemies cannot hurt them), use items in their inventory, equip new weapons or items or try to run away from battle which, if successful, results in the entire party fleeing from the enemies. It is not possible to save the game or restore a saved game while in combat mode, but there are no other restrictions on when and where the player can save the game.

    In each round of combat, everyone makes their selection of actions as the game calculates who will have initiative and then executing their orders.


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