Keeping it Small and Simple


Retrogaming: The Bard’s Tale

Filed under: Computer Games, Retrogames — Lorenzo E. Danielsson @ 00:31

If I were to list the games I have spent the most time playing overall, the first two Bard’s Tale games will certainly be on that list. Quite possibly, they would even top it. There was a time that pretty much the only thing I used my Amiga 500 for was to play The Bard’s Tale (as well as develop a Bards Tale character editor).

The Bard’s Tale is essentially a computer role-playing game. You control a party of adventurers through the town of Skara Brae and into a number of dungeons, which get more and more challenging. Very rarely can your party relax, because there are monsters everywhere.

You start the game off by selecting your party. You have several different character classes to choose from, including warriors and spellcasters of various forms. Then there is the bard. You should always have a bard. He, apart from drinking ale (or better yet, red wine), can play various tunes. These tunes are magical, and can for instance affect how well the party perfoms in battle.

Winning a battle usually means you get some gold which is handy because it allows you to buy weapons, armor and other goodies. Sometimes you also get lucky and find other items which may be useful in your quest.

Battling also means that members of your party get injured. That is not a problem because you can take them to one of several temples for healing. Just as in the real world, healing is not free however, and this is another time when some gold comes in handy. In addition, your spellcasters use mana to cast their spells. They will need this mana recharged from time to time. There is a place where this can be done (for a fee, of course).

As per usual with role-playing games, your characters gain experience from battles. When a character reaches enough experience points he will upgrade a certain skill, be it dexterity, intelligence or whatever. Spellcasters also get to learn new spells, as well as progress to higher levels.

Daytime tends to be fairly boring in Skara Brae. Thankfully night sets in before you know it and that is when the interesting monsters show up. Early on in the game it is a good idea to stay close to a temple at night so that you can heal your players. Because once a sorcerer starts throwing spells at the party, everybody gets burned.

The Bard’s Tale II and III work exactly like the first one but with larger maps and each brings a slew of new monsters. I never played Bard’s Tale III very much so I cannot really comment on whether or not their are any other new elements in the game.

I am not sure why I found these games so addictive. But I did (and I still do, but don’t tell anybody). I still have the Bard’s Tale games although now they are in ADF format. From time to time I start playing one of them again, just for old times sake.

In my last retrogaming post I mentioned that there are quite a few open source clones of Dungeon Master available. Funny enough, although The Bard’s Tale also attracted a large community of devoted fans, there don’t seem to be any open source BTs out there. At least I haven’t been able to find one. There are, however quite a few projects to create “Bard’s Tale-like” games, whatever that means.

You may want to try the Devil Whiskey demo out to see if it suits you. There is a version 2.0 of the game, but the latest demo available is only 1.2. Shifting Suns promised that they would make this game open source eventually, but I’m not sure what happened about that. If you want to download the demo, you will notice that the URL on the site is wrong. The URL should be this and nothing else.

If anybody knows of an open source Bard’s Tale clone, please let me know. Or if you are working on one yourself. I’ll gladly test it and let others know about it. I could even help out with some coding. Hm, come to think of it, maybe I should just start writing my own Bard’s Tale clone. If ever I had an itch to scratch, this would be it..

If you want to know more about The Bard’s Tale, you can check this site out. Or you could just Google around, whichever you prefer. There also seems to be some modern adaption available, but I only know about the classic that I played on the Amiga (as well as on the Commodore 64).

Finally let me say that there is a Bard’s Tale IV petition. If you feel strongly about such things, you can take your political standpoint by being counted here. So far 1447 have made their voices heard.


  1. Here Here. I loved the old BArds Tale game, and I too would love to see a new version somewhere, even open source. My programming skill is not up to snuff yet otherwise I’d start one myself.

    However, it doesn’t sound like a bad project to start up. You could easily put out an open call and find people…

    And is it just me, or is the Paladin kind of useless in Bards Tale I and II? (I had never played 3)


    Comment by The Le — 2007.06.25 @ 14:48

  2. I’ve actually been thinking about starting a Bard’s Tale clone myself. Right now I just need to get a few “real life” issues out of the way..

    And regarding the Paladin, I’d say that the paladin might be useful in the beginning of the game when your characters are weak. I normally keep a paladin as a punching bag until my spellcasters start to get experienced.

    The same might be said for warriors, by the way. In the early stages of the game you practically cannot survive without at least one warrior. But, as your party begins to gain experience, the warrior becomes less vital.

    Comment by Lorenzo E. Danielsson — 2007.06.25 @ 17:11

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