Distinctive Wizardryisms

We’ve looked a bit at the influential aspects of these early Wizardry games. What about the things that weren’t imitated even by its direct imitators? Those should be the aspects that really define Wizardry as an entity unto itself. I’ve mentioned the peculiar randomized point-buy of stats and the way that stats randomly go up and down when characters level up. What else is there?

For starters, there’s the aging mechanic. Every character has an age, apparently recorded in weeks, which increases when they rest at the inn, change class, or get resurrected. There exist items to magically rejuvenate characters. Why is age important? Because it’s related to the random stat changes: the younger the character, the greater the chance that stats will go up rather than down. If someone ages enough, their stats inevitably start decreasing; apparently they die if their Vitality goes below 3, which can be interpreted as dying of old age. I’ve never gotten anywhere near having an actually old character, although one of my fighters is perilously close to dying of old age just from unlucky die rolls. It’s worth noting tangentially that stats other than Vitality are capable of going all the way to 0, and even underflowing to 31, indicating that stats are stored in 5 bits, or 30 bits for the complete block.

It is of course extremely common for CRPGs to have shops where you can not only buy equipment but sell scavenged items. And such shops are usually willing to buy back items you bought from them, for a smaller price. But it’s very rare for shops to keep track of the dungeon finds you’ve sold them — to add them to their inventory, and sell them back to you at a markup. And that is something Wizardry does. You can essentially pawn your +1 broadsword for resurrection fees, intending to get it back once you’re on your feet.

Another thing: Identifying monsters. All monsters have some generic description like “Man In Robe” or “Large Snake” in addition to their proper name, and have a random chance of becoming identified that depends on the level and stats of your characters. And it’s kind of important to know what’s what, because a lot of monsters share their unidentified names — that Man In Robe could be a mere Apprentice or he could be an Arch-Wizard. But if monster identification isn’t a factor in other games, it’s also just barely a factor here; there’s a fairly low-level spell, LATUMAPIC, that effectively eliminates it from the game.

Speaking of monsters, I’d say a strong piece of the Wizardry flavor is the use of out-of-context exotic animals as monsters. Wizardry II has hippopotami roaming the dungeon. Wizardry III has Bengal tigers and anacondas. The first level of episode 1 has “Giant Rodents” that I assumed at first to be your standard D&D giant rats, but which, once identified, turn out to be capybaras. Encountering this as a child, I knew about capybaras only as a bit of trivia: the largest living rodents! By now, I’ve actually seen real capybaras, both in the zoo and on the internet. They’re not nearly as aggressive as the game would have you believe.

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