Welcome all you
Hunters, Wizards, Rogues, Monks and Paladins
to issue #7 of the illustrious
Where all will be spellbound by Micheal Cranford's Exquisite
THE BARD'S TALE
Tales of the Unknown
I am Raftule, Guildmaster in Skara Brae. Let it be known that
on a stormy day many months ago there arrived in the Guild a
Half-Elven man named Tender who wanted to become a Magician. As a
Guildmaster I have the right and duty to install worthy indivi
duals in the first level of their profession; be they Rogues,
Conjurers, Paladins or Magicians; Hunters, Monks, Warriors or
Bards. Once a member of the profession of their choice, it was up
to them - and the Review Board.
The Half-Elf Tender was instructed by me in the arcane
knowledge of the mystic arts and installed as First Level
Magician. He was a man of quick wit and great moral conviction -
from the moment we met I was struck by his alternating moods of
frustration and sorrow; his facial expression always troubled,
Unlike so many of the Novices, Tender did not go out for his
own benefit, nor did he sell himself to the highest bidder.
Immediately after his installation in the profession, Tender told
me of his plan: to thwart the plans of Mangar and to restore the
balance of good and evil in Skara Brae.
Objective and neutral as a Guildmaster should be, I could not
but admire the will of this Novice. Forbidden to help or
interfere in the matters of my pupils, I could only observe. And
what I saw pleased me: for Tender stayed indoors, and indeed hung
around in the Guild night after night, always searching for the
perfect companions in the battle he was about to declare. And
with every day that passed, I saw his mien become harder and more
Then, a week after his successful apprenticeship, he found his
first associate: a Half-Orc Warrior by the name of Redrum. A
being of great strength and constitution and reasonable dexte
rity, Redrum's only flaw was his low intelligence. But that, as
Tender knew, could change - and besides a fighter wasn't supposed
to do the thinking.
Soon others were found, and within a fortnight the team was
ready: Redrum and Tender were joined by the Dwarven Paladin
Ruben, his kinsman Kymoono (a Monk), the Human Bard Hornie and,
finally, the Elven Conjurer Sleight. Together, these six brave
adventurers set out to battle Mangar.
And they called themselves The Tender Touch.
Hi there everyone, once more welcome to Crimson's Column,
where I hope to gain your rapt attention for a game of
THE BARD'S TALE - Tales of the Unknown by ELECTRONIC ARTS
Starting off in your Guild (experienced roleplayers will
recognise their surroundings) and accompanied by a merry tune,
you select a company of six adventurers from (initially) eight
different classes and start on your peregrination. Not a minor
undertaking; I dare say things start getting interesting by the
time your party reaches the whereabouts of level 12. I won't say
when it gets to be real nice (but it's not under 24).
The Bard's Tale will be continued; I don't know if it will be
a trilogy like Phantasy (SSI) or longer, like Alternate Reality
(Intellicreations), but the way I see it they can't make enough
of them - this one is really superb. Tales of the Unknown is
another step ahead in a continuously developing line of Dungeons
& Dragons (TSR) type games; terms like AC (Armor Class rating)
and Hit Points are slowly becoming standardized. Although the
number of these games is relatively low in respect to the masses
of arcade games coming out, their quality is ever increasing. I
think it is astonishing to see how much of the impossibly complex
task of re-creating a game like D&D (which covers literally
thousands of pages of rules and creatures and the like) on a
computer of (I'm not kidding) limited memory has already been
achieved; my heart yearns for the future. It will be years before
the first gigabyte adventures will really do justice to the
demanding world of Fantasy and Science Fiction simulations; in
the mean time we can all admire and play the ever improving
Ending up with the usual blurp on how anyone not familiar with
earlier issues of Crimson's Column may turn to the part of ST
NEWS where the making of back orders is explained, I hereby
inform you that articles that have appeared in ST NEWS so far
include, in chronological order, Sundog (FTL), Phantasy I (SSI),
Brataccas (Psygnosis), Roadwar (SSI), Barbarian (Psygnosis) and
Leisure Suit Larry (Sierra).
Let's go meet the Tender Touch.
The City of Skara Brae seemed little more than an endless set
of empty, plundered, deserted houses. With sore hands from
drawing maps, we stumbled from cottage to cottage and every so
often fought the unlawful and repelling inhabitants of the lost
people's abodes. Although our team was reasonably well-armed (we
had spend most of our money on a couple of decent weapons and
some armor; all just for the fighting rank) there were times when
the healing of our wounds seemed all too costly. I feel no shame
when I say that one of the first things adventuring taught me was
to run away from foes beyond our capacity.
Mapping those parts of the city that were unguarded (a variety
of mean and nasty living statues made sure that no two-bit
adventurer ever disturbed the places of importance) left us not
only with an uncountable number of empty houses, halls and
stables, but also produced the necessary clues: inns, temples
(with a riddle), gates, a shop, Roscoe's energy emporium and,
finally, the Review Board.
Although our early days consisted of little more than
exploring the streets and killing relatively harmless opponents,
I remember that few phases were as hard as that very first one.
Inexperienced with fighting techniques, anything larger than a
Kobold formed a serious threat to our survival. Fighting was new
and left us with a feeling between sheer terror and thrilling
exultation. Our defeat of a small party of Half-Orcs on the first
day we left the Guild will always be in my memory; it may have
been the most dangerous moment we lived through.
Battles were easy then; out on the surface, within the
boundaries of our snowed-in city, different monsters never
associated with one another. With a few minor offensive spells, a
protective song from our Bard and the untrained attacks of our
fighting team, we had to survive long enough to gain the
experience that would persuade the Review Board to train us.
It was not until we had gained the experience of three
training sessions that Ruben decided we should take on the
Samurai. As I had left it up to our fighters to decide when the
time was ready to attack a guardian, I agreed to take our chance.
Not that I was so sure we were sufficiently trained, but I
realised that further investigation in Skara Brae would yield
nothing but boredom - it was time to move on.
Exploring the Cellars
As much to my surprise as to anyone else's, it was neither
Redrum nor Ruben who killed the Samurai - all the living statue
needed was a single kick from Kymoono. It was the first time I
fully realised the raw potential of an unarmed, unarmored, barely
Past the Samurai we found and mapped a short street, and
shortly we entered an Inn (I think it was called the Scarlet Bard
or something like that). Relaxing, we all had our fill, when
suddenly a question from Sleight brought the Innkeeper's
invitation to enter the cellars and make our own choice. Before I
had a chance to protest, Ruben and Redrum were on their way,
elbowing each other in their hurry to get down.
"Stay here, sissies," smirked our Half-Orc, "this is a man's
job. We've trained enough."
Tender and I smiled. Why? Because cellars are usually dark and
none of us carried a torch. After two minutes, Redrum's head came
through the floor and said, "Any of you tricksters know how to
make a light?"
We all went down and Sleight used his steelight spell.
Although it was perfect in the way of illumination (all our armor
and weapons began to shine), it did little in the way of putting
our fighters at ease.
"Damn this spooky stuff, Sleight - next time we take along
"Don't worry, Red. You know what they say about the face of
Half-Orcs when the light hits it," answered Ky in his most
I was close to having an all-out party attack at this point,
but fortunately the sound of footsteps attracted Redrum's
"Watch it, Kobolds."
It was just one of the little creatures; and when Redrum
started to make a long swing with his halbard, Ruben caught his
"Wait - I think he's friendly."
"A friendly Kobold," mused Sleight, "that'll be the day."
"I prefer 'em dead," muttered Redrum, but ceased his attack.
Half a minute later, we were walking down a long corridor with
a deserted, friendly Kobold in our first rank.
We came to a door on our right and opened it, expecting to see
some bottles - when we were suddenly confronted by four Spiders,
two Nomads, and four Magicians. I remember that the first thing I
thought was "That's all folks! - curtain."
As it was, we managed to kill that scum - barely. Our Kobold
was dead, Red and Ky were more dead than alive, Hornie had lost
his voice, and Sleight and I were left drained of nearly all
arcane power - I could hardly walk. The only one still relatively
unharmed was Ruben, who subsequently managed to get himself
poisoned by carelessly opening a chest.
We just made it to the healers in time for Ruben's
antitoxin, and when we were all fully restored we took the time
to examine our treasure. We'd gained a good deal of gold, and a
very nice looking mithril sword.
I think it was Red who vocalised the thought we all had in our
"Let's train some more."
We all trained and re-entered the cellars. In our second
fight, Kymoono was first withered, then killed. By the time we
reached the temple we were all in bad shape again; it cost us all
we had to resurrect Ky and cure ourselves.
Again and again we explored the cellars, always for a short
while - a few fights and back up again. This way we could train
regularly and before long Sleight and I became valuable battle
assets; we were the only ones who could attack rear enemy ranks
by Warstrikes and Starflares and the like. And Sleight knew some
minor healing spells, one of which even neutralised poisoning.
Although it had been some time since we'd found stairs leading
down into the sewer system, we had wisely decided that the
cellars should be fully explored before we'd take our chances
with even deadlier monsters. We had never been more right.
The first fight we had when going down the stairs was with a
couple of wolves. No problem; we had a mad dog in our own front
rank (lone creatures often volunteered to join us) and besides
our fighters were much harder to hit than in their first days.
They wore plate mail, shields, helmets, gauntlets - and sometimes
we were lucky enought to find some Elven mithril stuff, which is
much harder than steel.
There were seven wolves, but we didn't waste any magic on
them. Other creatures in the sewers (where I had the hardest job
making decent maps on account of the myriad of turns and
sideways) included Magicians, Conjurers, Black Widows (nasty
poisonous superspiders), Barbarians; you name it. And they all
collaborated with each other - once we had the ill fortune of
being surprised by four Magicians, seven Wolves, three Wolves,
and eight Black Widows. By this time we had learned that having
Hornie play his Lucklaran tune much improved our chances of
running away from a fight.
No need to say Hornie played a lot of Lucklaran.
Also in these sewers we found many riddles and clues; most of
them didn't seem to have any meaning but we wrote it all down
anyway. The most unpleasant thing down in the sewers were the
areas of total, magical darkness. No lamp, no spell, not even the
secret-door-detecting revelations could penetrate the unnatural
dark. I soon learned that for a map-maker, there is nothing more
frustrating than the absence of light.
Gathering experience and gold and equipment, we explored the
uppers sewers, and found (in the middle of total darkness) a set
of stairs going down, and in the middle sewers we found more of
all the aforementioned (including clues and tougher monsters) and
also some holes in the floor that gave access to the lower
Those lower sewers offered very little in the way of clues,
but brought us a lot of interesting equipment (Hornie was
absolutely delighted when he found a fire horn; when equipped it
constituted a formidable weapon against our toughest opponents)
and gold. It also gave us knowledge of extensive use of traps,
teleports, and a whole category of new adversaries - Goblin
Lords, Master Thieves, Spinners, Zombies, Ninjas, Scarlet Monks
and Sorcerers brought our best abilities to the test. It was with
Sorcerers and Wizards that we learned a golden rule: always
attack magic-users first. At one point we nearly lost all our
lives simply because some Sorcerers made us miss attack after
Exiting the lowest sewer level was easy; in a square room
behind a secret door there was a long stairway going all the way
up into Skara Brae. It brought us to the feared tower of Mangar,
but a magic mouth informed us that none save Mangar could enter.
Somehow, I knew, we would have to gain the knowledge that might
make us pass the guardian.
The City of the Dead
Walking through the streets of Skara Brae we pondered how to
proceed. We had trained all we could; none of us seemed to really
know what we were supposed to do next.
Surprisingly, it was Redrum who offered us a solution (though
I'm sure it was accident).
"Say Ruben, didn't we find a temple of a Mad God somewhere
"Yes, we did. But you know, Red, they're just a bunch of
heretics. If you want to pure your soul, you should come to
"Hold it!" I exclaimed, "that's it! The temple, we must speak
to that priest and..."
"I wasn't planning to..." continued Red, totally ignoring my
"Shut up, Red," said Ky, "Tender just found you some new
Ky never said a truer word in his life.
"Action" in the catacombs consisted of Wights, Skeletons,
Ghouls and other undead creeps. Hornie had to blow his fire horn
a lot; and when we opened the door to what appeared a small area
and encountered a hundred-odd Skeletons, he had to blow so long
and so hard that when we came out again (all unharmed) his horn
was broken and none of us could hear anything for an hour.
But more fire horns were found, and after a couple of
catacomb-explorations we also found mithril plate for our
fighters (although, by this time, Ky's natural dexterity and
quickness made it useless for him to wear either armor or
weapons), lightwands for Sleight and myself, a useless but
comical ring and a whole truckload of other items - which we all
sold to Garth for half of their actual worth.
The catacombs abounded in undead activities; also we
encountered direction-changers, more darkness, inscriptions, and
various other matters of either interest or simply annoyance. On
the second level, we faced many mysteries - chambers better left
untouched and unexplored, monsters better left alone, and a mad
worshipper of a mad god (a Master Sorcerer) who never got a
chance to touch us. And neither did his pet Dragon Sphynx; though
we did have a lot of trouble with some of his blue brethren.
On the lowest catacomb level we faced such things as 70 Wights
(with their cursed withering touch), 40 Ghouls, and at one point
we were attacked by 5 Wraiths. I will never forget how we had to
instruct Ky to kill Ruben because our own Paladin, perhaps the
most trustworthy of our company, had been rendered nuts by the
infesting touch of an undead servant.
As for our meeting with King Aildrek - the experience was too
shocking to relate. Let it suffice to say that the prize he
yielded was dearly paid for.
With the eye in our pockets and a change in class for both
Sleight and myself (we had reached the highest level in our
starting class then), we felt confident that no evil could harm
us - had we not defeated death itself in the form of a Spectre?
Had we not first cleared out the Scartlet Bard's cellard, then
the city sewers, and finally the dead city of the Catacombs? We
had learned that final clues should be found in Harkyn's Castle;
certainly no single Golem or Dragon could obstruct our way.
How childish we thought. How sure of ourselves, how conceited.
One single breath from the grey guard killed two of us - and we
weren't even inside.
All of us had much improved by this time, training more than a
dozen times each, but none were ready for the brutal inhabitants
of Harkyn's Castle. Time and again we entered, and every time we
left we carried outside those with heavy wounds, with withered
bodies, with drained life. Sleight and I had to rely on powerful
offensive and defensive spells, and never was there an occasion
when we had not nearly completely depleted our magical resources
by the time we exited the Castle. Experienced as we thought
ourselves to be, it took the best of our abilities to survive
that place, hanuted as it was by Dragons, Master Ninjas,
Elementals, Hydras, Wraiths, Fire Giants and even a Jabberwock.
We also met some organised resistance: riddles had to be solved
to enter certain places of importance, and furthermore we
encountered a troup of Mangar Guards. Yet all this, even the
profuse presence of traps of all kinds, did not equal the
challenge of our last two encounters.
For in Harkyn's Castle it was that we gave battle to Harkyn's
Legions, and killed literally hundreds of their berserk warriors.
Their task had been to guard the statue of the Mad One's Stony
self. When we approached it, King Aildrek's treasure revealed its
use - and after we had fought it, we were teleported.
To Kylearan's Tower.
The Good Wizard
We entered the tower still in good health; what with a Red
Dragon to aid us and the use of powerful offensive spells and
Hornie's mighty Fire Horns. Also, the treasures gained in
Harkyn's Castle had much improved our defences; most of our
team wore protective shield rings and staffs, adamant armor and
Close to the entrance everything seemed normal, but soon we
found ourselves hopelessly lost due to various unannounced
teleports, direction changers, dark areas and other puzzles. So
hopeless and desperate became our situation that all we could do
was search for an exit - Apport Arcane didn't work, and due to
several fights with unpleasantly agressive and well-trained
monsters our spell power was quickly diminishing. Even Hornie's
discovery of a Frost Horn couldn't help us forever.
After many hours of fruitless searching and mapping and
solving clues, running away from aggressors as often as we could,
we found our way out and re-entered Skara Brae more dead than
Short visits to Roscoe (with some healing in between) soon
improved our situation, however, and after a quiet night at the
Adventurer's Guild we distributed our belongings, sold the rest
to Garth and tried to access the tower, that was still guarded by
And the gates were closed.
Which meant we had to be teleported again by defeating the Mad
God in Harkyn's Castle. And the Mad God only came alive with a
One of King Aildrek's "special items".
The second time we entered Kylearan's tower we were better
organised and had much more reserve; especially since both
Sleight and myself had making good progress in our recently
assumed third Class - Sleight as Wizard, myself as Sorcerer.
Once we had completely cleared out and mapped the areas of
darkness and had taken the clues found there, it was just a
matter of time before we chanced upon the right teleport.
We came face to face with Kylearan, who seemed much pleased
with our results, and presented us with the Onyx Key that would
give us access to Mangar's Tower. And so, the last great Wizard
of Good instructed us to do battle with his nemesis, Mangar, in
the five-level deathtrap that was the latter's home.
Though the Onyx Key could bring us past the front door, it did
not open the gates to the Tower Square. Therefore, access to the
dark one's abode could only be gained by using the long stairway
going out of the sewers. Fortunately, once inside the cellars we
needed but one spell to bring us to the stairs.
The first level of Mangar's horrifying tower was relatively
simple of structure, but this did not mean that our enemies were
easy meat. I had always thought Hornie's fire horn was the limit
of destruction, but out here its effect was something like taking
the wings of a bee - leaving the sting intact. When we had just
become reasonably used to dealing with Grey Dragons and War
Giants and Ivory Monks and Wizards, what we encountered here were
obviously the better students and heavier brothers.
Going through the several levels of Mangar's Tower, we fought
with ever improving weapons against ever increasing numbers of
always deadlier foes. The thirty-four Evil Eyes downstairs had
killed three of us; they seemed funny creatures when compared to
their friends in the upper levels.
And while all this was going on - while we were using
dragonshields and powerstaffs and diamond swords and frost horns
against level-draining Vampires and death-striking Master Sorcer
ers and fire-breathing Red Dragons, we were making our way
through the third level of the maze where all corridors were
dark, and where every crossing was either a trap, a dispell
magic area, a teleport, or a direction changer. And we needed to
explore the whole level in order to find the seven words, because
only then could the next level be reached. Like it said somewhere
in the sewers, "there is no exit until the seven words are said".
Without the help of Ky's Kiel's Compass, Sleight's Scry Site and
my own Second Sight I doubt if we ever would have located those
Up on the fourth level the strangest trick of all happened -
after a certain step from a certain location, all doors became
walls - and all walls became doors.
I have never seen so many doors in my life.
There was a portal going to the fifth level, where enemies
thrived. Four times we were so near total defeat (without means
to resurrect and restore dead party members) that the merest
twitch of an ordinary Ogre might have finished our adventure for
good. But even the withering touches of the Ancient Enemies or
the critical hits given by Master Wizards couldn't stop us now;
it was too late to turn back.
And then, past the Spectres on guard, we suddenly found
ourselves face to face with an old, vulnerable looking man with a
hateful mien and spasmodically twitching fingers.
Mangar mocked us; alone though he was we all felt the terrible
feeling and stifling presence of his hate. Just when Redrum
decided to end the whole thing with a single stroke, Mangar
yelled, "Guards! Protect me."
And no sir, they definitely did not look like a fun group.
Small and select, Mangar's guards were only five: three Vampire
Lords and two Demon Lords.
After the first round of combat, our perfect Wind Dragon was
dead. Hornie was stoned. Ky was dead. Ruben was dead. Sleight was
I don't know how we did it, but we just barely managed to kill
our opponents. Just barely.
And then Kylearan appeared in a flash of light and
congratulated us with our success. Free at last of his
imprisonment, he could now aid in the liberation of Skara Brae.
With Kylearan's help we survived the way back to the Guild,
and only after we had reached its safety and restored our stoned
friends did a thought occur to me.
"You know, Red, we killed that bastard Mangar and never even
used that gift the Gods gave us?"
Redrum just sighed.
Ruben said, "If you'd have been a fighter, you would have used
it. But no, you're an Archmage; first Magician, then Conjurer,
then Sorcerer and finally Wizard. You and Sleight and Kylearan
are probably the heaviest and most powerful thinkers in town. And
the only ones who could have forgotten a thing so simple."
So far for an exploration of the multifarious hazards within
the borders of Skara Brae.
One of the many striking things about the Bard's Tale is its
length: I think I put more time in playing the Bard's Tale Vol.1
than I needed for the entire Phantasie trilogy. And this is where
the second, perhaps most impressive feature comes up. As most of
you know, playing a game (adventure or otherwise) for a long time
has one Major Risk: you get bored unless "new things happen". I
must congratulate the Bard's Tale team; every single time I
figured it was time for something new, it happened - different
dungeon surroundings, new monster pictures; you name it. Superb,
I lack superlatives here.
Now for the Monthly Message:
Well, bear you well in this new spring of time,
Lest you be cropp'd before you come to prime.
The Tragedy of King Richard the Second
As you see, I have taken the liberty of moving Willy up a
little, so all you people not interested in the usual blabla
about what to do with critisisms (burn them!), donations and
reactions of any kind can simply skip the rest of this article.
Anyway, you can reach me by writing/calling
Lucas van den Berg
6511 RL Nijmegen
Local Tel. 080-238586
-- The Netherlands --
What; here yet? Begone, fool - hast thou no wit?
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.