I've always wondered why there is a dragon on the cover of the game. Dragons aren't featured prominently in the game (in fact, I don't remember if there are any enemies that are dragons), and it really has nothing to do with anything---though it does look pretty cool.
This serpent is seen on the box art for a number of Wizardry games. Does anyone know its origin or if it has any significance?
It might be just that simple. It was good marketing.
I can't remember if there was a dragon in the first game, but the later Japanese games usually had dragons as the biggest of the big bad random encounters. They're all over the bottom floor in the PS3 game.
Wizardry 1 & 2 had some roving dragons near the bottom floors, I think, but there were harder, tiltowait-casting enemies elsewhere. Wizardry 3 did prominently feature a dragon at the end of the game, which was appropriate. I haven't played Wizardry 4, but I believe all the enemies in that game are adventurers of some type. The closest thing to a dragon encounter in Wizardry 8 is probably Ness (which is a pretty awesome fight).
I do not have the Apple II version. I'm wondering if there's something in the manual about the dragon. You know how many older games had large blocks of the plot explained in the manual that aren't even referred to within the game. That aside, you may be right about this simply being a marketing technique---it was designed, after all, to be D&D-like.
There isn't really additional plot referenced in the Apple manual (2nd edition). Perhaps there was more featured with one of the IBM-PC releases. Dragons are mentioned as potential enemies to be encountered. And I think one is featured in one of the funny illustrations