- Human - Average in all regards -- jack of all trades, but master of none. Humans can be any class.
- Elf - Taller and more frail than humans, but blessed with ability in magic. Elves cannot be hunters.
- Dwarf - Short and stout, strong and healthy, but not very bright. Dwarves cannot be hunters, conjurers or magicians.
- Hobbit - Short and nimble, with dextrous fingers. Hobbits cannot be hunters or paladins.
- Half-Elf - Tall and thin like their elf ancestors, but with the strength of a human. Half-elves cannot be hunters or paladins.
- Half-Orc - Ugly and foul tempered, they gain the strength and build of their orc cousins. Half-orcs cannot be paladins, bards, hunters or monks.
- Gnome - Short like a dwarf, but not as stout, and with some amount of magical ability. Gnomes cannot be paladins or bards.
- Warrior - Specializing in melee combat, warriors can use nearly all weapons and armor. Warriors receive an additional melee attack for every four levels of experience.
- Paladin - Warriors who have taken an oath to fight evil, and have thus received a greater resistance to magic.
- Rogue - While only mediocre in combat, rogues specialize in locating and disarming traps. They also have the ability to hide in shadows to avoid a fight.
- Bard - A returned warrior turned wandering minstrel. He retains many of his combat skills, but prefers song and tales over fighting. With instrument in hand, a bard can play tunes that aid the party or hamper foes.
- Hunter - More assassin than warrior, the hunter can use most weapons and has a chance of scoring a critical hit on an opponent that causes instant death.
- Monk - Trained without the need of weapons or armor, his damage and protection come from his knowledge of martial arts rather than his equipment. While monks can use equipment, they will be much more effective without as they gain levels.
- Conjurer - A spellcaster that specializes in the conjuring the physical, including fire, light and health.
- Magician - A spellcaster that specializes in altering the physical world, including weapons, armor, and enemies.
- Sorcerer - A spellcaster that specializes in creating and manipulating illusions, including those that will fight with the player's party. Due to its power, this class is not available to beginning characters, but must be achieved through experience. Only Conjurers and Magicians with three or more spell levels can become Sorcerers.
- Wizard - A spellcaster that specializes in summoning and binding the supernatural, including those that will fight with the player's party. Due to its power, this class is not available to beginning characters, but must be achieved through experience. Only Sorcerers with three or more spell levels can become Wizards.
- Strength (ST) - Physical power and forcefulness. Determines how much damage done in melee. The higher the better for front line characters.
- Intelligence (IQ) - Mental power and acuity. Determines spell points and bonus spells.
- Dexterity (DX) - Agility and nimbleness. Makes a character harder to hit and determines combat order.
- Constitution (CN) - Physical endurance and acumen. Determines a character's hit points, so higher is definitely better.
- Luck (LK) - Resistance and fortune. Determines trap avoidance, spell resistance, treasure discovery, and many other hidden abilities.
- Hit Points (HIT) - Maximum amount of health a character has available for his level.
- Condition (CND) - Current amount of health of a character. Each successful attack by an enemy will lower this number. Once it reaches zero, the character is dead. A character's condition does not replenish naturally, so must be healed by spell or by visiting a temple.
- Spell Points (SP PT) - Current amount of mental power a character has available for casting spells. Each spell cast lowers this number. Spell points will recharge over time, and the player can visit Roscoe to replenish more quickly.
- Experience Points - A measure of the character's accomplishments and knowledge. Each enemy slain increases a character's experience, and once enough is accumulated the player attains a new level and new skills.
- Gold - The life blood of commerce. Gold is found on slain enemies and can be used to buy new gear, heal wounds, and replenish spell points.
- Level (LV) - Measure of a character's achievement, based on ranges of experience points. A character's level determines his hit points, number of attacks and available spells. Levels are granted at the Review Board.
- Spell Levels - The highest level of spells a character can use in a magical discipline. Spell levels are determined by experience points and granted by the Review Board, but must be purchased for top price.
All is not well in the city of Skara Brae. The servants of Mangar The Dark roam the streets and infest its buildings, terrorizing its citizens and bringing the once thriving city to its knees. The player's band of stalwart adventurers must seek to rid the city of this blight, by exploring all manner of dungeons, castles and towers, and defeating Mangar and his minions once and for all.
- Adventurer's Guild - Central community for adventurers. This is where the game starts, where characters are created and recruited, and where the game is saved.
- Garth's Equipment Shoppe - The one and only supply of armor and weapons in Skara Brae. Garth has an unlimited supply of basic adventuring gear.
- Review Board - Judge and jury of character advancement. The board will determine if the player characters have enough experience for advancement, and will sell spells to those they deem appropriate.
- Roscoe's Energy Emporium - While spell points recharge over time, Roscoe will replenish them instantly for a hefty fee.
- Temples - Temples will cure ailments in return for a donation. The temple priests can return lost hit points, cure diseases and ailments, and raise the dead.
- Taverns - Scattered throughout the city, taverns are places of respite for weary adventurers. Here the player can catch up on the local gossip, down a pint to return a lost voice, and find all manner of the unexpected.
- Unmarked Buildings - The city is filled with run-of-the-mill buildings of no particular use. Many of these have been inhabited by Mangar's dark followers and are a prime location for battle for beginning adventurers. The buildings are typically populated by single groups of up to eight enemies.
Unlike the city, encounters in the dungeons and castles are with as many as four different groups of enemies. While only the first two groups are within melee range, other groups can still attack at range, and even advance between rounds. Defeated enemies will leave behind chests containing gold and experience, as well booby traps periodically.
- Wine Cellar - Rumor has it that the wine cellars below a local tavern hold more than dusty wine bottles, and that the followers of Mangar roam the corridors in even greater numbers than the city streets.
- Sewers - Even darker creatures are rumored to inhabit the sewers under the wine cellar, from poisonous spiders to half-breed creatures to strange monks dressed in green.Only the heartiest party should adventure to these depths.
- Catacombs - Beneath one of the local temples, the moans of undead hordes can be heard from the ancient catacombs. Followers of Mangar the Dark and the mad god await in the depths.
- Harkyn's Castle
- Kylearan's Tower
- Mangar's Lair
The four character code needed to cast is given after the spell name. The spell's cost in spell points is in parentheses after its description. Note that its takes two experience levels to attain a new spell level.
- Mage Flame (MAFL) - Create a torch that travels with the party. (2)
- Arc Fire (ARFI) - Burn the target for 1-4 points of damage. (3)
- Sorcerer Shield (SOSH) - Creates a shield around the caster, protecting him from blows for the duration of combat. (3)
- Trap Zap (TRZP) - Disarm any trap within 30 feet. (2)
- Freeze Foes (FRFO) - Binds a group of enemies, making them easier to hit for the duration of combat. (3)
- Kiel's Magic Compass (MACO) - Creates a persistent magical compass that gives the direction the party is facing. (3)
- Battleskill (BASK) - Increases the accuracy and damage of a party member's attacks for the duration of combat. (4)
- Word of Healing (WOHL) - Restores 2-8 hit points to a party member. (4)
- Arcyne's Magestar (MAST) - Blinds a group of enemies, causing them to lose their next turn.(5)
- Lesser Revelation (LERE) - Creates a torch that travels with the party for an extended amount of time and reveals secret doors.(5)
- Levitation (LEVI) - Allows the party to float, avoiding traps and using unreachable portals.(4)
- Warstrike (WAST) - Burns a group of enemies for 4-16 points of damage.(5)
- Elik's Instance Wolf (INWO) - Summons a wolf to fight with the party.(6)
- Flesh Restore (FLRE) - Heals a party member for 6-24 points of damage, and cures both poisoning and insanity.(6)
- Poison Strike (POST) - Poisons a single enemy, reducing his hit points over time.(6)
- Greater Revelation (GRRE) - An extended version of Lesser Revelation that illuminates a wider area.(7)
- Wrath of Valhalla (WROV) - Channels the ferocity, strength and accuracy of the old Norse gods through a party member for the duration of combat.(7)
- Shock-Sphere (SHSP) - An electrified sphere envelops a group of enemies, causing 8-32 points of damage.(7)
- Elik's Instance Ogre (INOG) - Summons an ogre to fight for the party.(9)
- Major Levitation (MALE) - An extended version of Levitation that lasts until removed. (8)
- Flesh Anew (FLAN) - An extended version of Flesh Restore that affects every member of the party.(12)
- Apport Arcane (APAR) - Telelports the party anywhere within a dungeon that is not shielded. (15)
- Vorpal Plating (VOPL) - Engulfs the weapon of a party member with a magical field that causes an additional 2-8 points of damage for the duration of the battle. (3)
- Air Armor (AIAR) - Creates magical armor around the caster for the duration of the battle. (3)
- Sabhar's Steelight (STLI) - Illuminates the area by causing all nearby metal to glow. (2)
- Scry Sight (SCSI) - Reveals the party's location coordinates. (2)
- Holy Water (HOWA) - Sprays holy water from the caster's fingers on an enemy, doing 6-24 points of damage to undead. (4)
- Wither Strike (WIST) - Withers an enemy into old age, reducing their attributes to 1. (5)
- Mage Gauntlets (MAGA) - Increases the damage of a party member's weapon, adding 4-16 points of damage for the duration of the battle. (5)
- Area Enchant (AREN) - Reveals the location of a stairway within 30 feet. (5)
- Ybarra's Mystic Shield (MYSH) - Creates a magical shield that travels in front of the party, protecting them from attacks. (6)
- Oscon's Ogrestrength (OGST) - Gives a party member the strength of an ogre. (6)
- Mithril Might (MIMI) - Enhances the protection of each party member's armor for the duration of the battle. (7)
- Starflare (STFL) - Ignites the air around a group of enemies, causing 6-24 points of damage. (6)
- Spectre Touch (SPTO) - Drains 12-48 points of health from an enemy as if touched by a spectre. (8)
- Dragon Breath (DRBR) - Breathes dragonfire an a group of enemies, causing 8-32 points of damage. (7)
- Sabhar's Stonelight (STSI) - Causes all stone around the party to glow, revealing secret doors. (7)
- Anti-Magic (ANMA) - Causes the ground to absorb magical attacks from the enemy for the duration of the battle, including dragonbreath, and even helps dispel illusions. (8)
- Aker's Animated Sword (ANSW) - Summons an animated sword to fight for the party for the duration of the battle. (8)
- Stone Touch (STTO) - Turns a single enemy to stone. (8)
- Phase Door (PHDO) - Turns a wall to air for one move, allowing the party to pass through unharmed. (9)
- Ybarra's Mystical Coat of Armor (YMCA) - An extended Air Armor that covers the entire party and lasts until dispelled. (10)
- Restoration (REST) - Restores full hit points to all members of the party, and cures poison and insanity. (12)
- Deathstrike (DEST) - Instantly kills a single foe. (14)
- Mangar's Mind Jab (MIJA) - Sends a blast of psychic energy against a single foe, causing 2-8 points of damage per experience level of the caster. (3)
- Phase Blur (PHBL) - Causes the entire party to shift and waver, making them more difficult to hit. (2)
- Locate Traps (LOTR) - Allows the caster to sense traps within 30 feet in the direction he is facing. (2)
- Hypnotic Image (HYIM) - Hypnotizes a group of enemies, causing them to miss the next round of battle. (3)
- Disbelieve (DISB) - Reveals the true nature of any illusion attacking the party, banishing it instantly. (4)
- Target-Dummy (TADU) - Creates a false target that cannot attack, but may draw the enemy's blows. (4)
- Mangar's Mind Fist (MIFI) -Sends a blast of psychic energy against a single foe, causing 3-12 points of damage per experience level of the caster. (4)
- Word of Fear (FEAR) -Causes a group of enemies to quake with fear for the duration of the battle, causing them to do less damage and be less accurate. (4)
- Wind Wolf (WIWO) - Creates an illusionary wolf to fight for the party. (5)
- Kylearan's Vanishing Spell (VANI) - Causes the caster to vanish for the duration of the battle and be nearly impossible to hit. (6)
- Second Sight (SESI) - Heightens the casters senses, allowing him to detect anything out of the ordinary within 30 feet, including traps, secret doors, stairways and special encounters. (6)
- Curse (CURS) - Curses a group of enemies, causing them to do less damage and be less accurate. (5)
- Cat Eyes (CAEY) - Grants night vision to the entire party until dispelled. (7)
- Wind Warrior (WIWA) - Summons an illusionary warrior to fight for the party. (6)
- Kylearan's Invisibility Spell (INVI) - Causes the entire party to disappear for the duration of the battle, making them nearly impossible to hit. (7)
- Wind Ogre (WIOG) - Summons an illusionary ogre to fight for the party. (7)
- Disrupt Illusion (DIIL) - Destroys any illusions fighting against the party, and prevents new illusions from being summoned. Also exposes any dopplegangers in the party. (8)
- Mangar's Mind Blade (MIBL) - Sends out a wide blast of psychic energy, causing 10-40 points of damage to all enemies. (3)
- Wind Dragon (WIDR) - Summons an illusionary red dragon to fight for the party. (10)
- Mind Warp (MIWP) - Causes a party member to go insane, which is useful for battle possession. (9)
- Wind Giant (WIGI) - Summons an illusionary storm giant to fight for the party. (12)
- Sorcerer Sight (SOSI) - An extended Second Sight that lasts until dispelled. (11)
- Summon Dead (SUDE) - Raises a skeleton or zombie to fight for the party. (6)
- Repel Dead (REDE) - Repels an undead creature, causing 16-80 points of damage. (4)
- Lesser Summoning (LESU) - Summons an elemental or demon to fight for the party. (8)
- Demon Bane (DEBA) - Reverses the power of summons and causes 32-128 points of damage to a demon. (8)
- Summon Phantom (SUPH) - Raises a more powerful undead to fight for the party. (10)
- Dispossess (DISP) - Returns a possessed party member to his natural mind. (10)
- Prime Summoning (PRSU) - Summons a more powerful elemental or demon to fight for the party. (12)
- Animate Dead (ANDE) - Resurrects a dead party member for the duration of the battle, allowing him to fight as if alive. (11)
- Baylor's Spell Bind (SPBI) - Possesses the mind of an enemy, forcing him to fight for the player(14)
- Demon Strike (DMST) - An extended Demon Bane that affects an entire group of demons. (14)
- Spell Spirit (SPSP) - Raises a very powerful undead to fight for the party. (15)
- Beyond Death (BEDE) - Resurrects a dead party member with one hit point. (18)
- Greater Summoning (GRSU) - Summons a greater demon to fight for the party. (22)
- Falkentyne's Fury - Drives the party into a rage, increasing their damage.
- The Seeker's Ballad - Produces light while exploring, and increases the chance of hitting the enemy in combat.
- Wayland's Watch - Soothes enemies, causing them to do less damage.
- Bahd'r Kilnfest - Heals the bard's wounds while exploring, and the entire party's wounds during combat.
- The Traveller's Tune - Makes the party more difficult to hit.
- Lucklaran - Makes the party more resistant to magic.
Various ailments can afflict the characters during their adventuring. None are beneficial, and all can be healed at the local temple.
- Insanity (NUTS) - Causes a character to attack wildly at random targets, even his own party members.
- Poisoned (POIS) - Causes a character's health to decrease over time. This can be particularly dangerous in battle, since a poisoned character's hit points will drop after every round. Poison can be cured with the Flesh Restore spell, and is a hazard of fighting Black Widows and Spinners.
- Possessed (POSS)
- Withered (OLD) - The player character has been withered to old age, reducing all attributes to 1. Withering comes primarily from the Wither Strike spell cast by Magicians, but also from the touch of Wights and Demons.
A compendium of monsters is being compiled in the Creatures image gallery. Most are virtually the same apart from their image, but the following are notable.
- Barbarians - Encountered at the beginning of the game they often come in large groups. They are tougher than the average monster and can be very treacherous for a beginning party.
- Magicians - They have the same spells as hero Magicians and often cast Wither Strike on party members, aging them prematurely. Best to take them out as early as possible. Magicians are encountered from the beginning of the game, but particularly in the wine cellar and sewers, where they like to cast from the back ranks.
- Black Widows & Spinners- A successful hit will poison the target. This can be cured at the temple, which is very expensive, or with the Flesh Restore spell. These are encountered beginning in the sewers.
- Sorcerers - An early enemy with a group attack, they will often cast Warstrike, damaging the entire party. Sorcerers are first encountered in the lower sewers.
- Wights & Demons - Nasty foes that have a withering touch. Wights are found starting in the sewers, and demons are summoned by Wizards in the castle.
- Wraith - A single touch from this foe will turn its victim insane. Found primarily in the castle, but also found occasionally in hidden corners of the catacombs.
- Dopplegangers - They can attack the party from even the back reaches of the battle. Found in the lower catacombs and castle.
- Dragons - Feared foes whose breath engulfs all ranks of the party in combat. Found in the lower reaches of the catacombs and the castle.
- When creating a party, remember that only the first three party members (not including the special member) are in melee range. The last three should have skills that do not require physical attack, such as a bard or spellcasters.
- While in the city, the player can still summon a stone elemental for aid in combat (using the "z" key).
- New characters are created with money, but no equipment. The player can create some new members and take their gold.
- If the player leaves the Adventurer's Guild and does not return (from exiting the game, for example) all of the party's gold will be lost in the corresponding last save. This can be avoided by manually backing up and restoring the character files (*.TBW). This can be useful early in the game, when gold is hard to accumulate and death is more frequent. Note that this only works if the files are backed up or restored while the game is not running.
- The state of the world does not persist from session to session, or even when changing dungeon levels.
- Bards can only play one song per experience level before needing a drink.
- Before changing casters to Sorcerers, consider switching them to the other starting class (Conjurers to Magicians, Magicians to Conjurers). Not only will they retain the spells of their old class and gain the spells of their new class, but the experience point requirements per level are the same as if they were beginning characters, so advancing through the spell levels will be much faster -- and they gain the extra spell points and hit points!
- Be careful when using illusionary monsters. Some enemies will not believe them and the illusion will disappear.
- The original full title of the game is Tales of the Unknown, Volume I: The Bard's Tale. This was planned to be the first in a trilogy of Tales of the Unknown, each for a different class with the first being the bard. But the game was so successful and the name became so iconic they renamed the series as The Bard's Tale.
- The Archmage Ybarra referenced in the game was named after Joe Ybarra, one of the game's developers and co-founder of Electronic Arts.
- Characters from both Wizardy and Ultima III can be imported into the game.
- Bard's Tale can still be played on modern PC operating systems like Microsoft Windows Vista and XP with emulators like DOSBox.