Monday, September 19, 2011

early CRPG immigration patterns

Some early D&D-type games for home computers allowed the importation of characters from other early D&D-type computer games.  Above is an attempt to map some of them.  Not all versions supported this features (the C-64 version of a game might support such a feature, while the Apple II version does not, etc.) so this map is at best an ideal.  A few interesting bits of trivia:
  • The earliest version of Wizardry II straight up required you to import your PCs from the original game.  Someone eventually figured out that this limited their sales to people who had played the original and a chargen feature was eventually added.
  • Deathlord is a fairly obscure computer RPG with a mythic Japanese setting.  Thieves and fighters imported from other games find themselves transformed to ninja and samurai.  Also, if you like overland exploration in the vein of Ultima III and IV, Deathlord's wilderness map is supposed to be much larger than either of those games.
  • Dragon Wars started life as Bard's Tale IV, but corporate shenanigans ensued.  It's supposed to be pretty dang good.
  • You can't bring your Ultima III characters into your Ultima IV game, but maybe PCs from both adventures can join forces together in Bard's Tale III!


  1. Anonymous4:27 PM

    That's very interesting!

  2. I never knew this. Well, I knew there was some contact between Wizardry and Bard's Tale, but I didn't know Ultima was involved too. Thanks Jeff!

  3. Wow Jeff, that knocked some cobwebs out of the brain! I played most of those games you mentioned on my Apple IIe. I never did import characters though. Most of the time, I would get bored with the game before I finished it (those old games were fricking looooong). I would just start up a new guy in the new game.

    I remember liking Dragon Wars, but I can't recall any details about it other than the Boris Vallejo cover.

    I never bought Wizardry II since I never finished the first one. I specifically remember that game being marketed like a high level D&D module.

    Many of these games can be downloaded legally for free from

  4. Man, I played many of those games with my friend but had no idea about character porting. Not sure if I would have done it since part of the fun was climbing levels. Good sleuthing!

  5. Dragon Wars is pretty dang good. It features a pseudo-Babylonian setting, it has a functional skill system, several kinds of magic (you can graduate to more powerful spellcasting classes, and can eventually demolish dungeon walls with some of the more powerful ones), and it feels "real" in the sense that the areas you explore aren't just random labyrinths, but resemble the things they are supposed to represent. It is also strikingly non-linear; you can, and will return to old locales with new knowledge, travel through the wilderness and the Underworld, and so on. It was a very advanced game for its time. (I got it in some classic RPG collection in the late 90s, and found it very enjoyable.)

  6. Also, is it sad to admit that I'm still annoyed that you can't import your Baldur's Gate characters into Neverwinter Nights, as promised?

  7. It's funny because I was just thinking about this a few days ago. I distinctly remember importing Ultima III characters into the Bard's Tale in order to steal their starting gold and their one item that transferred. The item, as I recall was, a crystal sword was absolutely useless in combat but could be sold at the Inn for even more money. Such was the way we buffed up low level parties before we attempted to enter the sewers or whatever the first dungeon was called. Good times.

  8. Dragon Wars was the only CRPG I played as kid, well it was also only one I owned. Later I have learned that it was very lucky pick for the genre.

  9. The Quest for Glory series also let you import characters from previous games. According to Wikipedia, one of them even allowed (by accident) imports from the same game!

  10. Quarex3:41 PM

    I have been keeping a running tally of games that let you import characters to other games since the early 2000s. If we were to limit the list to pre-Windows-95-era games, I would have these to add:

    Centauri Alliance allowed you to import from TotU:Bard's Tale/BT2/BT3, Wizardry 1/2/3, Ultima 1+?, and Might & Magic.

    Legend of Faerghail supposedly lets you import characters from Phantasie, Phantasie III, TotU:Bard's Tale/BT2, though I could never find this feature on my DOS version.

    There are several other game series that allowed for importation, but as far as I have found, those are the only other two games that went crazy letting you bring in entirely unrelated characters.