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The Bard's Tale introduction screen from the Commodore 64 version.

The Bard's Tale: Tales of the Unknown is the first game in the Bard's Tale series. It was programmed by Michael Cranford, commissioned by Interplay Productions and distributed by Electronic Arts in 1985.


The evil wizard Mangar has cast a spell of eternal winter over the town of Skara Brae and the surrounding countryside. Slowly but steadily, the city's militiamen vanished and the hordes of monsters became rampant throughout the city. It is up to a small band of adventurers to brave the dangers of the city and its dungeons to find a way to defeat Mangar and free the city before all is lost.


TotU is a hybrid visual-and-text first-person party-based role playing game emphasizing developing a party of adventurers, the exploration of the city of Skara Brae and the various Dungeons within it (making detailed maps is highly recommended), all the while solving puzzles, defeating the monstrous inhabitants and avoiding, overcoming and enduring traps and other hazards: aka "Dungeon Crawling".

TotU allows players to build a party of six characters, plus there is a special slot for monsters to join the party (whether by way of Baylor's Spell Bind, a monster offering to join the party, or a summoned monster). Characters are made up of ten different Classes, and can be one of seven different Races.  Race may give a character bonuses or penalties in certain areas of expertise, while Class may determine which weapons may be wielded or which armor may be worn, spells that can be cast, or other special abilities a character might be able to use.

At all times, the party's stats are displayed in the lower half of the screen. The upper half is divided into two windows - the right side window displays text describing what's going on. The left window shows a first-person view while exploring, and the portrait of the lead monster group during combat. In between the windows is a bar which displays Persistent Spells when active, such as light spells and magic shields.

TotU is generally played with the keyboard, but supports the use of a mouse. For a list of keyboard commands, see Bard's Tale 1 Keyboard Commands.


(Main Article: Combat)

The party advances in level by engaging in combat, which is broken up into turn-based rounds. Typical combat options include:

  • Attack - engage a foe in melee combat (first three ranks and the summoned rank only)
  • Defend - do nothing, increase odds of not being hit slightly
  • Party attack - take a swing at another party member
  • Use an item - invoke an item in the character's inventory
  • Cast a spell (Spellcaster only) - the character can cast a spell
  • Hide in shadows (Rogue only) - allows the rogue to evade being targeted for one round; becomes a game-winning technique in The Thief of Fate

Assuming the party survives the combat round, experience points and gold are divided up among the surviving party members ("Dead" and "Ston" considered as not surviving and therefore no experience/treasure is awarded), as well as a chance to find one or more items.


(Main Article: Items)

Items come in different forms.  There are armor (including helms, gloves, and shields) weapons, rings, wands, instruments, figurines, and misc. items.  Each character can only equip one of each form of item at a time.

In Bard's Tale I, Some items can be bought at Garth's.  Other items have to be found.  This usually involves killing a bunch of monsters and sifting through their charred corpses after the battle looking for useful loot.

Skara Brae[]

(Main Article: Skara Brae)

The city of Skara Brae contains all of the important features and serves as a platform for getting through the other dungeons. In total, the following features are found in Skara Brae:


(Main Article: Bard's Tale 1 Monster List)

Skara Brae is not for the faint of heart: packs of ruffians and monsters roam the streets, hide in empty buildings, and lurk in every dungeon waiting to ambush the unwary! Be prepared to fight at every turn...

Ports and Versions[]

The Bard's Tale: Tales of the Unknown was written (and ported) for the following systems:

  • Apple II
  • Apple IIgs
  • Apple Macintosh
  • Commodore 64
  • ZX Spectrum
  • Atari ST
  • IBM PC
  • Amiga
  • NEC PC systems
  • Amstrad CPC

See Also[]