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How the Second Wave of RPGs in the 1980s Set the Stage for the Amazing Games to Come

AXE OF THE BLOOD GOD | We remember Wizardry, Bard's Tale, and Diablo 2 in this week's episode of the RPG podcast.

Feature by Kat Bailey, .

Axe of the Blood God is our weekly RPG podcast hosted by Kat Bailey and Nadia Oxford. You can find the previous episodes here.

After taking its first, hesitant steps in the 1970s, RPGs truly began to find their footing in the 1980s. We explain why as Jeremy Parish joins us to continue his exploration of RPG history on Axe of the Blood God [download link here]

This week we focus on Wizardry, which was the subject of his second History of RPGs feature, and Bard's Tale. Both had a significant role to play in the evolution of the genre, and we strive to put them into context as we continue our journey through RPG history.

Also in this episode: David Craddock returns to talk about #18 in our Top 25 RPG Countdown: Diablo 2! Find out why this seminal dungeon crawler is still a beloved favorite today.

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Show Description

Kat is once again joined by Retronauts host Jeremy Parish to explore the history of RPGs. This time they dive into PLATO, Wizardry, and Bard's Tale as they explore about the rise of the "second wave" of RPGs in the 1980s. Then David Craddock returns to talk about #18 on our Top 25 RPG Countdown: Diablo 2! .

Music from Axe of the Blood God is courtesy of Lena Chappelle, who has also contributed the themes to Active Time Babble and Roleplayers' Realm. I also use music from the RPG Music Pack over at rpgmaker.net. Check it out!

This article may contain links to online retail stores. If you click on one and buy the product we may receive a small commission. For more information, go here.

Comments 6

  • Avatar for Vodka-Tonic #1 Vodka-Tonic A month ago
    Another week, another great episode of the Blood God. All of the D2 discussion brought back so many memories for me. D2: LoD is so good.
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  • Avatar for Maxbeedo #2 Maxbeedo A month ago
    I know way too much and could say way too much about Diablo 2. If you don't want to read the rest of this, I'll sum up and say Diablo 2 was a pinnacle game for me. I've definitely made the argument before that it's not a "true" RPG, but few games have as much player-choice in character builds, especially after patch 1.10 which added skill synergies, so it's one of the best examples of that specific but very important part of RPGs.

    I was heavily involved on the official diabloii.net forums back in the day, but eventually split off with another forum due to one of several schisms in the community, which is funny now because one of the biggest issues was third-party mods like the Orange Rune mod that colored Rune drops to Orange (instead of White which is what gold/potions/ammo were, high-end Runes were ridiculously rare and you could miss them in a giant pile of loot). Even talking about those mods would get you automatically banned, but now that mod is officially part of the game itself. The single-player forum was actually the most honest forum cheating-wise, as the biggest reason for players to cheat was to assert their dominance over others online. The ATMA program was developed by a forum member to help people who played offline to mule items between characters, and it also showed a distinctive hex code and item level attached to each item so you could easily do searches online to see if the same item had been traded before, thereby preventing dupers from flooding the trading economy. Blizzard never really accepted such a program, and banned that forum member and many of those who defended him, even though it basically policed cheaters for them.

    I know many people who are still running the game today. I know people who have beaten Hell difficulty with all 7 classes on every version of the game (1.07 through 1.14), who have self-found every single set and unique item in the game, who have made every single rune word (many of the runes have less than a 1 in 10 billion chance of dropping from hell difficulty enemies, I've beaten hell difficulty 10 times and have never seen 10-15 of them). If you bought the game back in 2000, Blizzard still honors those CD-keys, and they have updated the installers/launchers to work with newer OSs/hardware. The latest patch came out in 2016, 15 years after LoD's release.

    Random other fun memories:
    1. Pre-1.10 Multiple Shot Lightning Enchanted monsters - The most deadly combo of all random abilities. It was essentially a graphical bug, but the bolts these monsters released on being hit would overlap each other 50+ times over into balls of instant death. If you found one of these, you hit Esc and quit the game, and hoped that monster wouldn't spawn with those abilities next time.
    2. Pre-1.09 Buriza-do Kyanon - This Crossbow makes 100% of your shots have the piercing quality, and the Amazon's Guided Arrow skill used to continue moving up to a set distance. This meant each arrow would pierce through the opponent, then immediately do a 180 and pierce them again, and again, and again. You could launch and have several of these zipping through bosses at a time and kill them in seconds.
    3. Pre-1.10 Cow Level Farming - The restriction for this moognificent level was that as long as you didn't kill the Cow King, you could keep going back again and again. The halberd-wielding bovines were in tight, large groups, making them easy to kill with AoE abilities like Corpse Explosion, Meteor, etc.. Sadly now each character can only open the portal once per difficulty.

    Sadly I never got to realize my dream of having 8 Paladins play together with 6 different Act 2 hirelings each using 14 different auras. Everyone would have max resistances, huge defense, super speed, huge damage, massive health and mana regen, reflect damage taken, and all enemies would have basically no defense or resistances and be slowed. Ah, the power of buffs and debuffs.
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  • Avatar for yuberus #3 yuberus A month ago
    Bard's Tale is a game I had heard of but hadn't really learned much about until I read Craddock's Apple II book. I have a hard time going back to computer RPGs from the 80s, but I'm tempted to make an exception for that one.
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  • Avatar for NiceGuyNeon #4 NiceGuyNeon A month ago
    Diablo 2 was my first RPG love. I wasn't particularly knowledgeable in games back in the day but I had a N64 and so my first RPG was Quest 64. It was OK, but it wasn't exactly a convincing way to hook a kid on RPGs. Diablo 2 changed that for me overnight.

    I would play solo, online with my friends, sometimes I would head to a computer cafe to play with my friends after school just so we could talk about Diablo 2 while playing Diablo 2, and my uncle would at the time come over almost daily to play on my computer and I would sit next to him to watch him play for hours. He ran a Barbarian and I ran a Paladin and it was basically a different experience. I'd eventually play with every character including the Assassin and Druid.

    Diablo 2 was all my friends and I could talk about during recess, lunch, before school, after school and often during class. Sure, it meant some of the religious kids wouldn't talk to us because they thought we were worshiping Satan, but really who's losing out on this arrangement? Honestly I came out ahead not dealing with those nutty kids, so thanks Blizzard!

    Diablo 2 helped bring me to RPGs in a way that a mediocre game like Quest 64 couldn't, or in a way that a game like Pokemon couldn't either since I left handhelds for like 15 years after Pokemon, but Diablo 2's impact always stuck with me. It informed my expectations, and became a standard by which I judged my experiences with almost every game I played. It was the good stuff!
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  • Avatar for mattcom26 #5 mattcom26 A month ago
    Growing up in a somewhat conservative household, the cover art alone would have made the original Diablo out of the question, let alone it's name being Spanish for "Devil". What could be more illicit! Just imagine that conversation of a mid-90's weekend... "Mom, can I stay home from church today to play DEVIL?" This episode has reminded me I should really go back and fill in that blank spot though.Edited last month by mattcom26
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  • Avatar for kelvin-donald #6 kelvin-donald A month ago
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