Restarting Wizardry

My craving for making maps on a grid unsatisfied, I turn back to the game that taught it to me in the first place. I left off Wizardry III in the middle more than a decade ago on this blog; I think it’s time I got back to it. But first, it’s been so long now since I played the first two Wizardries that I feel like I should start over from the very beginning. So last night I created a new party of adventurers to explore the Proving Grounds of the Mad Overlord. Just like when I started over Wizardry III, I still have some old characters around — I’m not using the same machine as 12 years ago, but I still have the files — but I intend to only use them for emergencies like dragging characters’ carcasses out of the dungeon for attempted resurrection after a TPK. (Recall that resurrection is not guaranteed to work in this game.)

My writeup of Wizardry III describes generating lots of level 1 characters and getting most of them killed immediately, a cycle that repeats until I finally, painstakingly get someone to survive to level 2, which provides the leverage I needed to get more characters over that hump. Strikingly, that didn’t happen at all in my replay of Wizardry I. I just took some simple precautions, like pooling my party’s gold to buy the front-line fighters decent armor, and heading for the exit before I ran out of healing spells, and that was sufficient to get my entire party up to level 2 without any deaths at all. By the end of the evening, they were level 10-ish with only one replacement. I remember the game being a lot harder than this. Of course, when I first played it, I had no idea what I was doing, and this time around, I’m very familiar with both CRPGS in general and Wizardry in particular. The opening hallways and chambers of level 1 are engraved in my memory, and instantly recognizable — moreso than the rest of the dungeon, because this is the part you see at the start of every delve.

But to be honest, the main reason I’ve been able to advance so quickly is the Murphy’s Ghost. Hidden away in a secret area of level 1 where you won’t find it easily, it may have been initially intended as a kind of trap. You enter a room and get some text describing an altar, and a prompt asking if you want to search it. Say yes, and a Murphy’s Ghost appears — or sometimes two; I think the name must not mean “the ghost of Murphy” but rather, something like “a species of ghost identified by Murphy”, like “Thomson’s Gazelle” or “Pallas’s Cat”. At any rate, the Murphy’s Ghost is a great deal tougher than other monsters you encounter on level 1, but once you’re advanced enough to beat it, it offers an unparalleled reward-to-risk ratio. And since you can just enter the altar room and summon it again as many times as you like, it’s the ideal grinding spot. And grind I did.

All this ease inevitably led to overconfidence and a TPK on level 4 when I prematurely took on the game’s first real boss encounter. I’ve more or less recovered from that, but my party has been almost entirely Ship-of-Theseused, with only one of the initial roster remaining. The Murphy’s Ghost helps a lot with that, too: it doesn’t have any ranged attacks, so if you’re training up a fragile new level-1 character, you can just park them in the back row and let them earn XP by watching the big guys slaughter ghosts for a while.

1 Comment so far

  1. matt w on 6 Sep 2022

    According to the wiki I just found, the manual lists playtesters named Helen and Paul Murphy, so maybe they both supply their ghosts sometimes?

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