The Bard's Tale Wiki

"The Bard's Tale is a game of fighting monsters. It's the only way to build experience. Fortunately, Mangar and his gruesome creatures are very evil, so don't worry about their feelings. Kill them, if you can."


Combat happens when the party encounters a group of monsters and either decides to F(ight), or attempts to R(un), but cannot. In Skara Brae, entering a generic building (i.e., any building other than a Temple, Tavern, a shop like Garth's or Roscoe's or a Dungeon) gives a 25% chance of starting a random fight.

"Combat with "monsters" (the generic term for all opponents) occur both randomly and at set locations. You can also initiate intra-party combat at almost any time, in case one of your members is turned to the dark side. At the outset of combat a list of foes will be given, broken down into the number of foes in each group. The maximum is 99 monsters per group, with up to four groups."

Fights at set locations in Skara Brae generally involve Statues which you can choose to fight or not to fight. If you fight them, they come to life and attack you. In Dungeons, fights at set locations (with few exceptions) generally start automatically as soon as you enter certain squares - after defeating the monsters, that square is "cleared" and can be traversed safely. To reset the fights at set locations, leave the dungeon (or go to a different level), then come back.

Random battles can also happen while just standing still: as time progresses, the game "rolls" again and again to see if a fight happens, or a wandering monster shows up and offers to join your party (unfortunately it is not clear how frequently these rolls are made). The chance of a random fight is twice as high as the chance of a wandering monster offering to join.

Combat Rounds[]

"Combat is divided into a series of "rounds," like a boxing match. At the start of each round, each of your characters must decide what action he will undertake in the upcoming melee, unless, of course, your party decides to run away. A menu of possible selections will appear for each character. These options are as follows."

  • A(ttack) foes: To physically assault foes in the first or second group of monsters.
  • P(arty) attack: To assault another member of the party, including special members.
  • D(efend): Do not interact this round -- reduces chance of being hit.
  • U(se) an item: Make use of a magical item held in the character's inventory and currently equipped. This may require specifying a target for the effect.
  • B(ard) Song: Bards can play a short tune to affect the party or the foremost group of monsters in some fashion
  • C(ast) a spell: Cast a spell at the party or a group of foes. The spell code must be entered, and a target identified.
  • H(ide) in Shadows: A rogue can try to avoid combat altogether by hiding and, if successful, will be skipped as a target of attack in the upcoming combat round.


Character initiative seems to be based on three major factors: the number of fights that character has won (capped at 65,536), their dexterity score, and whether or not they're a Monk. Monster initiative is based on their level - if the characters score is higher, they go first.

"Once all the choices for your characters have been entered, the round begins. The most dexterous characters or monsters usually make the first strike, but luck, character level and character class also affect this. In evenly matched fights, the outcome often depends on which side gets in the first blow.

"Usually the highest dexterity character attacks first. For particularly nasty monsters (like blue dragons) attack with your highest dexterity characters first. Your less dexterous characters may not survive long enough to get in a first strike."

At the end of a combat round, dead monsters will be removed from the ranks of your foes, and dead characters will be shuffled back to the end of your party. A fresh group of monsters may also advance into the first two ranks to give their fellow members a breather."

If the monsters are not dead, and the party members are not all dead, the party can either continue to F(ight), or attempt to R(un).

Front Rank vs. Rear Rank[]

"The first three characters in your party can be attacked physically by monsters, and can attack back. The last three characters can only be struck by magical attacks, and can only attack back with magic. This simulates your first three characters being up on the front line of attack, with the last three characters acting as backup in case one of the first three is killed. The first two groups of monsters are in a similar position; they are the only monsters who can attack or be attacked physically."

"Warriors and other fighters often play less of a role against higher level, magic-using monsters. But without the protection of their armor and strong arms, your Magic Users would not survive long enough to learn the higher level magic spells."

The Special Slot (Friendly/Summoned Monsters)[]

The special slot (marked "S") is for monsters who can become part of your party. They can join by:

  1. Being summoned or created as an illusion, or some other artifice related to a cast spell, or
  2. Introducing themselves to the party and offering their services as a comrade.

"Fill the special slot quickly. Conjure or summon a monster or create an illusion, if necessary. The special member will take a lot of heat off your fighters. Monsters tend to attack special members first."

Specials cannot be controlled in battle; they choose their own attack mode and generally go after the primary group of monsters the party is facing. Specials are cleared out of the S slot when killed. Illusionary specials (created by a sorcerer) are cleared out if any foes disbelieve them.

If a non-illusionary special is attacked by another member of the party for any reason, it will turn immediately hostile and fight until defeated.


Your best bet is to make sure your front line characters have AC as low as possible and high hit points - armor takes priority over weapons. Being able to dish out enough damage in a single round to kill a foe each round in melee is good, but the first two take priority. Likewise, your Bard should be in the 4th rank ready to step forward should one of your front rank characters die, and thus should be equipped with the best armor he can get his hands on.

"Use your spells and Bard songs to lower the armor class of your entire party. The lower the better."

Prioritization of Targets[]

Target prioritization is key to efficient combat and thus successful grinding. Try to immediately kill off any creature that has annoying debuffs (especially Withering and Stone!), or can do damage to the entire group (including the back row), preferably before they can strike.

"Many of the undead monsters are capable of draining experience levels, turning characters old and gray or even turning characters to stone. Treat the undead with respect. In other words, kill them quickly."

Focus your damage spells on magic users in the rear ranks, or if there are more than your front rank characters can kill in a single round. Remember, Magic users can cast such spells from the rear (C, D) ranks, they can hit you while being beyond reach of your bruisers in the front rank.

"If you are attacked by more than 2 groups of monsters, concentrate on Magic Users first. If you cannot kill off all the magic-using monsters, you may want to cast anti-magic spells to protect you against illusions, possessions and other spells."

Remember that only the first two ranks of monsters (A, B) can attack or be attacked in melee. Use this to your advantage by focusing your front rank's fire on the nastier of the two groups.

"You can minimize damage by killing off all but one monster in either of the first two attacking groups. As a general rule, attack groups with only one member last, unless it is a deadly monster."

Mechanics (Tales of the Unknown)[]

Armor Class both reduces the chance of being physically hit in combat, and in Tales of the Unknown and The Destiny Knight also increases the chance to hit the enemy. In addition to this, characters get an initial bonus to hit enemies base on their character class:

  • Mages 0,
  • Bards & Rogues +1,
  • Warriors, Paladins & Hunters +2,
  • Monks +3.

In Tales of the Unknown, the 2nd Bard Song, "The Seeker's Ballad", increases the chance to hit slightly: this effect stacks when played multiple times in combat. Also, the spells MIMI ("Mithril Might") and Kylearan's Invisibility Spell (INVI) can be very helpful in avoiding damage!

Warriors, Paladins and Monks get multiple attacks as they gain higher levels. Hunters can only attack once, but have a chance to cause a Critical Hit, which increases at higher levels. Thus at lower levels, Hunters are weaker on the offense than other fighters until their critical chance gets higher. At higher levels, especially in BT3 The Thief of Fate, their critical strike ability is extremely useful.

Spell Resistance affects both a character's ability to resist hostile magic, and to use their own magic against enemies. A character's resistance score is fixed, and based on their level, Luck attribute, class and whether they're equipped with a Luckshield or not: high level Paladins generally have the best resistance scores. Monsters' spell resistance is based on their index number (higher number = more powerful monster) with an added variable of 0-7.

In Tales of the Unknown, the FEAR and CURS spells are bugged: instead of reducing the enemy's chance to hit, they increase it! Don't ever use these spells. Each cast will increase the enemy's chance to hit, so with multiple castings you can watch weak enemies that can't hit you suddenly go to hitting you almost every time. Likewise, the Lucklaran Bard Song, BASK, OGST and WROV spells appear not to have any effect whatsoever.