This guide will take you through Character Creation, your initial exploration of the town, and into your first dungeon. We will go over class options, gearing options, and beginner strategies for safely leveling and exploring your first dungeon. This guide assumes you are not on Legacy Mode, because let's face it, if you are using Legacy Mode... you already know this stuff, or at least you probably should. Some of this information may also be viable in Legacy Mode, but some might not!
Bard's Tale: Tales of the Unknown is an amazing game, and one of my first introductions to the RPG genre waaaay back in the 80's. This guide, however, is specifically for the Remastered Bard's Tale Trilogy that InExile has released on GoG and Steam. Some information might be viable cross-platform, but some will not. I approve of many of the Quality of Life additions made to the Trilogy Remastered version, and for those who like a more 'vintage' outlook, there's the Legacy version.
For the purposes of this guide, I will be assuming that you are new to the franchise, and haven't played any of the Bard's Tales games before, and are starting off with the default settings for The Bard's Tale Trilogy, and starting with Bard's Tale 1: Tales of the Unknown, and that you are not using Legacy Mode.
Before we begin our adventure, however, some Options settings that you might want to check out:
Most of these options should be familiar to you, however there is one option which I shall touch upon: Large 3D. If you are playing with a monitor that is 16:9 resolution (720p, 1080p, 4k), I strongly suggest using this option, as it makes things just easier to see. You can try toggling it to see the difference and if it works for you.
Since it isn't immediately intuitive for everyone, and there isn't a mouseover indication, here's the options:
The lyre icon is your background music. I suggest turning it down to around 25%, so you can still enjoy the music but it isn't going to be loud and annoying. I actually don't suggest turning it off because it can be a useful audio cue when your bard's music runs out, but YMMV.
The hammer icon is the sound effects volume. Use is typical, set it to however you prefer.
The two bars are of note. You might actually not want to max out your scroll speed, because in larger combats, important information might scroll past before you can read it! Of course, YMMV. The Minimap Alpha just determines how prominent it is on the screen.
I would advise making sure the Party Inventory Divider is turned on. It is a nice quality of life adjustment, although it won't be available in Legacy mode.
You start off in the Adventurer's Hall... now what?
Well, you have two options:
- You can load the already created characters
- You can make your own characters
I suggest the second option, personally.
You can either use the mouse to select Create a new member, or use the C button on your keyboard.
From here, it will ask you for your character's Gender. This has no mechanical impact on your character that I can discern.
Next is going to be your race... and this will have a substantial impact on the stats generated. So, let's talk about stats and their impact, shall we?
Stats: What they do
There are five stats in the game, each with their own uses.
Strength: A high Strength score (17+) will increase the damage you do per hit with a melee (but not ranged or magical) attack. This is useful for any front-row character who plans on actually hitting things. As a result, this is a dump stat for any caster.
Dexterity: A high Dexterity score (17+) actually reduces your AC (remember, we're using the old-school THAC0 system where a lower AC is better!). In addition, Dex is factored into turn order, the higher your Dex, the better the odds you'll go first. This is relevant to everyone!
Constitution: Higher Constitution scores give better hit points on average during level-ups! As you progress in the game, you WILL encounter enemies who can damage your 'back row' (more on that in a bit), so even your casters will want a good Con score if possible.
Intelligence: A higher Intelligence score will factor in your MP per level gains calculations, so any casters will want to prioritize this stat. However, if your character is a class that doesn't cast spells, it can be safely dumped.
Luck: This stat is allegedly tied into saving throws against magic and traps, however not enough information has been gathered concerning this to determine just how much, if any, effect it might have.
Now that we have that out of the way, let's look at those races again, shall we?
Each race option has their own minimum and maximum potential for each stat. As a result, some races are better than others.
Human: touted as the 'default' race, has a surprising spread of stats
- Str: 10-17 - Humans are actually pretty decently strong
- Int: 6-13 - Not exactly the brightest of the bunch
- Dex: 8-15 - Middle of the road. You won't start off with an AC bonus, but it could be worse
- Con: 8-15 - Middle of the road.
- Luck: 5-12 - Not very lucky
Elf: Touted as a magic user
- Str: 8-15 - Surprisingly strong for the stereotype
- Int: 9-16 - As advertised, quite intelligent
- Dex: 9-16 - Fairly nimble
- Con: 6-13 - Very poor, which is unfortunate for your HP score
- Luck: 6-13 - Not very lucky either
Dwarf: The quintessential 'strong but dumb and slow' race
- Str: 11-18 - One of the strongest races to start with
- Int: 6-13 - Not too sharp
- Dex: 7-14 - Slightly less dexterous than a Human
- Con: 10-17 - As durable as the stones
- Luck: 3-10 - Most unlucky race in the game
Hobbits: Famous for their burglary skills, not so much for their martial or arcane prowess
- Str: 5-11 - As to be expected
- Int: 6-13 - Not noted for their brilliance
- Dex: 12-18 - Slippery little buggers
- Con: 5-12 - Now that's going to be a problem...
- Luck: 10-17 - Lucky fellows
Half-Elf: Neither fish nor fowl, they share a blend of traits from their respective parent races
- Str: 9-16 - To be expected, exactly between a Human and an Elf
- Int: 8-15 - Not too shabby, the Elvin heritage is definitely favored here
- Dex: 9-16 - Taking after the Elvin parent again
- Con: 7-14 - Taking the average between Human and Elf again
- Luck: 6-13 - As to be expected
Half-Orc: Their origins are probably best left unexplored, very strong but very dumb
- Str: 11-18 - Strong like Ox...
- Int: 4-10 - ... and nearly as smart!
- Dex: 8-15 - Not too clumsy either
- Con: 11-18 - Beefcake
- Luck: 4-11 - Unfortunate
Gnome: Supposedly good for more than just punting
- Str: 9-16 - Surprisingly strong for a half-pint
- Int: 10-17 - Quite intelligent as well
- Dex: 7-14 - Not the most agile, though
- Con: 4-10 - Very frail
- Luck: 4-11 - Not particularly fortunate
Fighter: Your quintessential beat-stick and meat-shield. The advantage is that they wear heavy armor, equip powerful weapons, and hit quite frequently. They get bonus attacks every 4 levels, a progression matched only by the Monk.
Suggested races: Half-Orc, with Human and Dwarf as runners-up and viable, and Half-Elves as passable
Paladin: Shining warrior of light! Has a bonus chance to resist magic, but doesn't have the attack progression the Fighter does. Useful in the later part of the games where spellcasters become more frequent and your casters start doing the lion's share of the damage output.
Suggested races: Half-Orcs and Half-Elves may not be Paladins, so you're looking at Humans and Dwarves
Hunter: His trick is that he has a chance of landing a critical blow, melee or with a bow, instantly slaying the foe. However, he can't wear the same gear that Fighters and Paladins can, so his defenses will be lacking compared to them.
Suggested races: Half-Elves may not be Hunters, which leaves Half-Orcs in the top spot with humans behind. With their lower equipment-based AC, you probably don't want a Dwarf's low Dex weighing you down further.
Rogue: Almost any thread you go in sees them as being called 'worthless', 'useless', and 'just skip them'. And... they're not entirely wrong. In the very early game, they can be actually useful to save your Conjurer's MP, but into the mid and late game, sadly not relevant. If they can hide, they then have a chance to crit, but this is strictly worse than the Hunter's flat chance to crit on every attack. On the balance side, they CAN equip the Death Dagger, which auto-crits on every hit. If you can find one...
Suggested Races: If you must play one, Human, Half-Elf, or Half-Orc. Hobbits have too low a Con score to be viable
Monk: Powerhouse melee. They can wear armor, and their AC is reduced as their level goes up in addition to the AC from the armor, meaning they can very quickly hit very low AC scores. Their unarmed damage also scales very rapidly. By level 3-4, they should be unarmed, and remain that way. Strongly recommended to get one in your party.
Suggested races: Human, Half-Elf, or Dwarf. Half-Orcs lack the discipline to become Monks
Bard: You're going to need one in your party. Their songs are extremely useful when used correctly, and they can be adequately equipped. It is their tale, after all. When you find a Bardblade, equip it and never look at any other weapon again. So long as you have a Bardblade equipped, your throat will never run dry.
Races: Human, Half Elf, or Dwarf. Half-Orcs claim that they make fabulous Bards, but the rest of polite society disagrees
Conjurer: The first of two entry-level magic users. Conjurers focus on utility magic, including the very important TrapZap spell that makes Rogues nigh useless. In the early to mid game, they'll also be your main healer. Get at least one in your party, maybe even two.
Races: Elf or Half-Elf, depending on if you want the bonus point in Int or Con. Avoid Gnomes, their abysmal Con score will keep your already low HP progression even lower, which will be very detrimental when enemies start tossing around their own group-targeted damage.
Magician: The other of the two entry-level magic users. Focusing more on combat magics, they have some of the better early-access damage spells, and their combat buffs are quite nice. New to this version of the game is the spell Quick Fix which heals exactly 8 damage flat per cast for 3 mana. While it quickly becomes useless, it is invaluable at your first few levels.
Races: Elf or Half-Elf, same as Conjurer and for the same reason.
Your First Few Levels
For your party, I suggest a Bard, Conjurer, Magician,and Monk, and then another one of either Conjurer or Magician, then two more melee classes. I would advise against Rogue unless you really want to check it out, and would instead suggest either Fighter, Paladin, or Hunter.
Now that you've created your characters, you need to equip them!
The easy way is to strip the pregenerated characters of their gear, and wear that. If you don't feel like doing that, there's always Garth's.
As you exit the Adventurer's Guild, you find yourself on Main Street. Turn left, then go forward three, turn right to face the red building standing alone. This is Garth's Shoppe, where basic entry-level gear can be had, and you can sell your unwanted loot.
Your party is divided into front row and back row. The last three slots are the back row, while the first four are the front row. I would suggest focusing your gearing on your front row, as they are the ones in danger of being hit by most things, unless you are unlucky enough to run into Conjurers.
You can open your Journal with the J key at any time you are not in a building. This gives you a layout of everywhere you have been and seen with your own two eyes, effectively a map which maps itself out as you progress. Also note that Garth's and the Adventurer's Guild have special icons for them. You can mouse over them in your Journal to get more details. This will be a useful feature going forward.
Also note the minimap that is slowly filling in as you wander around. It can also be a handy navigation tool.
Bows are available in this version of Bard's Tale as well. They are equipped as off-handed items, in place of a shield. They can be used to shoot things which aren't in melee reach just yet, and can be quite useful to have. However, they do consume Arrows every time you shoot one. Later on the cost will be negligible, but for now it is something to take into consideration. Hunters DO have a chance to crit with a bow, making it a worthy consideration for them.
So, we're going to be playing tourist for a bit, to get our bearings so to speak. head north until the street dead-ends in a T intersection. Hang a left, then turn the corner left again. Note the building there with the white marble? That's the Review Board. When you get enough experience to level, you'll be heading there to level up, and to learn new spells as they become available.
The next door down from the Review Board is a tavern! The Bard can drink to recover his usage of music, and can buy Wineskins to refresh on the go. Very useful!
Continue past for now, and take the first turn you see to your right. Follow the dog-leg around, and it leads into a large square with a fountain in the middle. The north, west, and southern sides are lined with temples you can pay to heal up at. The ones on the eastern side are considered heretical and will not talk to you unless you understand their cult better.
This is a good place to walk around and grind a bit, as you have temples to heal up at. However, now that we've found this place, there's another useful trick you can do.
Head back to the Adventurer's Guild. Notice how all those buildings line the road? Try searching them. You might get fights, you might get treasure, you might get hints, you might get multiple of the above. This is going to be the fastest and easiest way to hit level 3. Don't forget to upgrade your gear as your cash permits until everyone is wearing the best gear that Garth has to offer, heal up at the temples when you run low.
Another useful tactic is to use your Magician(s) to cast Quick Fix, an insanely useful spell available in the normal (not Legacy) version of the game. It heals a flat 8 damage for the cost of 3 MP.
There's another cheap trick that those familiar with the classic version of this game will be very familiar with. As you look at the 3D window, on the left will be the pause menu, and on the right will be 'more actions'. Selecting More Actions, you'll see Party Attack as an option. The Bard's Song Badh'r Kilnfest will slowly regenerate the party's HP in combat. So on the first turn, everyone but the bard Defends, and the Bard starts playing. Then everyone continues Defending until everyone is healed full. You can then quit the party combat and continue on your way.
The Magician spell Vorpal Plating can be cast on any party member, not just the caster, and is a very useful buff to increase the damage output of a character who seems to be doing less than optimal damage (Bard and, if you have one, Rogue).
The Passage of Time
Time passes in this game when you are not paused or in a building or menu. This has both positive and negative consequences. On the upside, every few seconds, your casters will regain MP passively during the day (but not at night, or in dungeons). On the downside, this also means you can encounter enemies just by standing still! It's a trade-off. As you gain levels and you learn spells that can be used out of combat to buff your party, you'll notice their duration also tick down, even if you are standing still.
The Statue at the Gate
When everyone hits level 3 or 4, you are ready to proceed to your first true challenge. If you wait until your Fighter and Monk have level 4, their damage output significantly increases, which might make the fight go faster, but it isn't strictly necessary.
From the Adventurer's Guild, head south, take the dog-leg east then south again. You'll find another temple here. Heal up if you aren't full. Also, note this Temple, it's going to be extremely useful to you in the next section of your journey.
Continue south, and you'll find a statue. Inspect it, and it comes to life and attacks!
This is a melee monster, so have your front-row characters attack. Bard can sing or attack. If you have a Rogue, just have him hide so he doesn't die. Conjurers can buff someone with Battleskill and Magicians can buff with the new and improved Mage Gauntlets. Deafeat it, and egress to the gate is yours! Heal up before proceeding.
The Scarlet Bard, and What Lies Beneath
The first building of particular note past the gate is a tavern called the Scarlet Bard. Unlike the other Tavern you were visiting over by the Review Board, this tavern offers Wine! However, when you order some, he will tell you to go down to the cellar to get it yourself. Thus starts your first dungeon...
First off, you'll notice that you can't see a bloody thing! You'll need a light. Fortunately, you have several possible options:
- A Torch or Lantern, either looted from combat or obtained from Garth's
- The Conjurer spell Mage Flame (and later on, when you get 3rd level spells, Lesser Revelation)
- The Magician spell Sabhar's Steelight Spell
- The Bard's song Seeker's Ballad, when used outside of combat
There's pros and cons to each. You can only have one Bard Song active out of combat at any given time, and you may also want to be using the Traveler's Tune instead to reduce the party's AC instead of using music for light. However, there is an interesting advantage to the Bard's song you might encounter later on. While most light sources are extinguished in areas of darkness, and need to be re-used, Seeker's Ballad will re-light itself as long as you have duration left on your song as soon as you leave the area of darkness. However, we won't be encountering any areas of darkness in the Cellar, so for now play your Traveler's Tune to help with the defenses and pick one of the other options for a light source.
Don't get too far from the staircase at first. If you start getting low, head back out. Remember that your MP regenerates slowly outside during the day (but not at night), and there's the nearby temple just on the other side of that statue (which will trouble you no more, it is a once ever encounter) to visit as well.
Explore the Cellar, pick your fights, and gain levels. If you find a staircase going down, I wouldn't suggest it until you hit 5th level and get 3rd level spells for your casters.
As you map out this level, you'll find it is a fairly straightforward layout. There are no secret doors to be had, although there are some interesting clues scattered about. You'll also notice, as you explore, that certain tiles are marked with a red sword. These tiles will *always* contain an encounter. However, in this version of the game, it will only encounter once per floor visit. So once you trigger it, you'll have to leave the floor and come back to trigger it again. Still, this makes getting 'guaranteed' encounters for grinding levels much easier and less RNG based. Very handy, but also potentially very dangerous.
Of particular note, the forced encounter tile just before the staircase going down. Yes, you will hit it again on the way back up. Keep this forced encounter in mind when deciding at what point you should retire to the surface.
Casters and Arcane Progression
Of note, there are two classes in the game you cannot access at character creation: Sorcerer and Wizard. Sorcerer requires knowledge of at least 3rd level spells from another class before it becomes available, Wizard requires knowledge of at least 3rd level spells of two different spellcasting classes to gain entry.
Once you leave a spellcasting class, you may NEVER return to it! As a result, it is foolhardy to switch classes before gaining your 7th level spells at character level 13.
You will want to be at least 5th level before venturing down the staircase you discovered in the Cellar, and maybe even 7th.
At 5th level, your casters get 3rd level spells, which includes Starflare for your magician(s) and Warstrike for your conjurer(s), both of which are group-target damage spells, and will significantly make groups of enemies much easier to deal with. Your conjurer(s) will also get Lesser Revelation which can detect secret doors, and your magician(s) will also get Ybarra's Mystic Shield, which is an out-of-combat party buff that decreases the party's AC... and it stacks with Traveler's Tune!
At 7th level, your casters get their 4th level spells, which includes the classic Dragon's Breath for your magician(s) which deals more damage than Starflare but at a more modest range, and the crucial Flesh Restore for the conjurer(s). It is this spell that makes me hesitate to venture too far into the sewers, as you will encounter enemies there that can Poison you, and until you get Flesh Restore, you cannot cure the poison, which means trekking back up to the temple to get it fixed. But, for the brave and the bold adventurous types, if you wish to explore the sewers at level 5... by all means.
There's a vital clue on the first level of the Sewers which you will want to find before progressing further down. There are also several forced encounter tiles that have pre-defined enemies, and several of them are Black Widows!
Black Widows are likely to be the first enemy you encounter that can poison you, but they are worth a lot of experience for your level, and grinding on them can really powerlevel you at this stage of the game. Just remember that if you don't have Flesh Anew, you'll have to retreat to the temple to get the poison cured, and you'll want to be keeping the afflicted character healthy so the poison doesn't finish him off.
Also in the sewers is your first opportunity to find gear that is not found in Garth's. You'll have a chance of finding Mithril gear in chests from combats. Mithril Swords are a straight upgrade from Broadswords and War Axes (although cannot be thrown), and even compare favorably to Halberds (trading off the max damage potential for a more consistent minimum damage). Mithril Daggers are useless unless you have a Rogue in the party. Mithril Shields are a straight upgrade from your Bucklers and even Tower Shields, and can be equipped by the front-line crew except the Monk (including Rogue if you happen to have one). Mithril Chain is an upgrade to Chain Mail and can be worn by Monks, but otherwise isn't too exciting.
Here's also where you will encounter your first areas of Darkness. This will blow out any lights you have, forcing you to either use another item such as a Torch or Lantern, or spend MP on another light spell of some sort once you leave the area of darkness. This can get expensive on your MP totals if you aren't careful, so having the Seeker's Ballad play here might not be the worst idea, since at least you won't have to keep re-casting your light spells.
Explore and gain levels. You'll want to be at a minimum 7th level before going any deeper, perhaps even 9th. At 8th level, your Fighter and Monk gain another attack, dramatically increasing their damage output. And at this point you'll be too deep to really save someone who is poisoned if you don't have a Flesh Restore on hand.
At 9th level, your casters get access to their 5th level spells, which includes Greater Revelation and Shock Sphere (upgrade to Warstrike) for your conjurer(s), and magicians get Giant's Strength which is a party-wide attack accuracy buff.
In the second level of the Sewers, you'll find a hint, but to find it, you'll need to pass a Ray of Light. There was a hint on the first level of the Sewers about how to pass it. You'll also find more monsters and more treasure. I wouldn't advise going into the third level of the sewers, though.
When you find the very useful hint about the heretics, you can leave the sewers and reveal your newfound knowledge to them at their temple on the east side of the city square. Who knows what might await you there?
By now, you've got a feel for the game and its mechanics, so I will let you get on exploring this amazing game, and the two sequels that follow.
Once you feel like you've got this game down, try playing on Legacy mode and have a taste of what it was like back in the day!