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Tales of the Unknown: Volume I - The Bard's Tale

aka: Shadow Snare, The Bard's Tale, The Bard's Tale I
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Description official descriptions

The small country town Skara Brae was enjoying a peaceful life, until an evil wizard known as Mangar the Dark appeared. Monsters have invaded the town, terrorizing its inhabitants. Mangar cast the spell of Eternal Winter on the surroundings, isolating Skara Brae from any possible help. Guards that were entrusted with the task of protecting the town have disappeared within one night. Only a party of brave adventurers can save Skara Brae and defeat Mangar.

The Bard's Tale is a fantasy role-playing game similar to Wizardry games, with first-person exploration of pseudo-3D maze-like environments, and turn-based combat against randomly appearing enemies. Unlike early Wizardry installments, the town can be explored physically, and parts of the overworld are accessible as well. Several dungeons must be explored before the player can tackle the final quest.

Six character classes are available when the player is prompted to create a party of six adventurers in the beginning of the game: Bard, Hunter, Monk, Paladin, Rogue, Warrior, Magician, and Conjurer. The last two can be promoted when specific conditions are met during gameplay. The bard class plays a special role, possessing magical songs that improves the party's performance in combat and are required to solve some of the game's puzzles.


  • バーズテイル - Japanese spelling

Groups +



Credits (Apple II version)

Lead Programmer



Average score: 78% (based on 29 ratings)


Average score: 3.7 out of 5 (based on 104 ratings with 11 reviews)

A great early dungeon crawler

The Good
What I loved about this game was that it greatly improved on Wizardry's graphics. Now you had color, textures, and motion of the monsters whenever you had an encounter!

I liked too the fact that you could level up your spell casters (conjurer and magician, I believe) to their max spell learning level, and then have them change class, learning each other's spells. Now that made for some powerful characters! Then you could make one of them a wizard, the other a sorcerer, and max them out again, then switch classes again. Super neat! Eventually both your spell casters could cast every spell in the book!

The bard adds a nice touch too. He plays the tunes that protect and enhance the party, but needs to be liquored up from time to time :)

The Bad
Skara Brae reminded me too much of Southern California housing tracts - a numbing sameness of shape and color buildings in every direction. Any color house you want to look at, as long as it's spanish style - stucco, with a ceramic tile roof!

I really looked forward to getting into the dungeons!

The teleporters in the final levels of the last maze kicked my butt, and I never did finish the darn game.

The Bottom Line
A great dungeon RPG in the day!

DOS · by ex_navynuke! (42) · 2005

Fantasy Role Playing Excitement

The Good
This game had everything a fantasy gamer could want: fighters, paladins, wizards, elves, dwarves, and even hobbits! Dungeons, monsters, treasures - plenty of exciting challenges that unlocked the imagination.

The Bad
Getting past level 1 was almost silly - the initial game balance was a little bit out of whack.

The Bottom Line
Bard's Tale was a great game of dungeon-delving, a computerized D&D spin-off. I had loads of fun building my characters, creeping through tunnels, fighting monsters and collecting treasures. For role playing enthusiasts, the game provided the perfect opportunity to imagine warriors and paladins swinging their swords against the forces of chaos and wizards casting spells and pursuing power. Elves, dwarves, hobbits and humans united against evil - and it was all up to your party of adventurers to save the realm!

Apple II · by eqfan (1) · 2008

One of the all-time classics.

The Good
An original storyline, from a time where graphics weren't what drew people to play a game. Replayability is fairly high, even though the game takes place within one city (unlike later Bard's Tales). And, hardcore RPGer that I am, I like that this game (and others from the time) doesn't have an auto-mapping feature.

The Bad
Graphics are marginal (to be expected), and the sound is the PC speaker "beeps" and "boops".

The Bottom Line
One of the groundbreakers in the genre. Set up the field for BT 2 and BT 3, both great games as well.

DOS · by Mirrorshades2k (274) · 2000

[ View all 11 player reviews ]


Subject By Date
Bard's Tale Song remakes Pieces of 8-bit Jul 30th, 2015
What advntages does the Hunter class have? Scribblemacher (195) Feb 17th, 2013
Completed? Gledster Dec 7th, 2010


1001 Video Games

The Bard's Tale appears in the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die by General Editor Tony Mott.


While most of the buildings are empty and exist only to increase the size of the map, entering the building directly across from the guild shows the game credits.


Though any direct connection to the game series, setting and characters is slight at best, an officially-licensed Bard's Tale series of novels eight strong (!) were published by Baen Books over a six-year period in the '90s:1. Castle of Deception (1992), by Mercedes Lackey and Josepha Sherman; 2. Fortress of Frost and Fire (1993), by Mercedes Lackey and Ru Emerson; 3. The Chaos Gate (1994), by Josepha Sherman; 4. Prison of Souls (1994), by Mercedes Lackey and Mark Shepherd; 5. Thunder of the Captains (1996), by Holly Lisle and Aaron Allston; 6. Wrath of the Princes (1997), by Holly Lisle and Aaron Allston; 7. Escape from Roksamur (1997), by Mark Shepherd; and 8. Curse of the Black Heron (1998), by Holly Lisle.


  • Michael Cranford, a devout Christian, put many Biblical references into the first two Bard's Tale games. Most notable are a reference to the crucifixion in the first game and the Holy Spirit in the second. In fact, Cranford ended his video game career with the second game in the series and now programs web sites for religious groups.
  • One of the more powerful shields in the game, the Ybarra shield, is in fact named after Joe Ybarra, a producer at Electronics Arts, who was directly involved with The Bard's Tale.

Skara Brae

The original Skara Brae is a well-preserved Neolithic village located in the Orkney Islands of Scotland. The four thousand year old settlement was buried by encroaching sand dunes and uncovered a century ago when a storm exposed parts of the structures. Today it is a well known tourist site and undoubtedly inspired Michael Cranford (Bard's Tale) and Richard Garriott (Ultima series).

NES version

In the NES version, the post-death screen was removed, the word "kill" was avoided and all alcoholic beverages were replaced with non-alcoholic ones.


  • Commodore Force
    • December 1993 (Issue 13) – #88 “Readers' Top 100”
  • Commodore Format
    • November 1994 (Issue 50) – #29 The All-Time Top 50 C64 Games
  • Computer Gaming World
    • March 1988 (Issue #45) – Introduced into the Hall of Fame
    • November 1996 (15th Anniversary issue) - #89 on the "150 Best Games of All Time" list
  • GameSpy
    • 2001 – #17 Top Game of All Time
  • Happy Computer
    • 1986 - Best Role Playing Game of the Year
    • Issue 04/1987 - #2 Best Game in 1986 (Readers' Vote)
  • Power Play
    • 1987 - Best Atari ST Game '87

Information also contributed by Adam Baratz, Chip Arnett, Peter Ferrie, PCGamer77, Pseudo_Intellectual, Ray Soderlund, Vance.

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Contributors to this Entry

Game added by Droog.

ZX Spectrum added by JRK. Amstrad CPC added by Kabushi. Macintosh, Apple IIgs, PC-98 added by Terok Nor. NES added by Unicorn Lynx. Atari ST, Commodore 64, Amiga added by Belboz.

Additional contributors: JubalHarshaw, MAT, Jeanne, Pseudo_Intellectual, General Error, LepricahnsGold, Trypticon, Patrick Bregger, FatherJack, Geoff May.

Game added February 2nd, 2000. Last modified August 17th, 2023.