The Bard's Tale IV Update 39: Puzzle Weapons, Backer Portal, and a Vote!

kickstarter2017-12-11 14:22:28

TL;DR - Puzzle Weapons, Backer Portal Reopens, Contest Winner, Backer Rewards Update, Crowdfunding Corner

Greetings, citizens of Caith! David Rogers here with another update for you. Today I'd like to talk about puzzle weapons in The Bard's Tale IV, one of our features that we teased during the Kickstarter campaign that is now beginning to take shape. What are puzzle weapons exactly, and how will they work? That's what I'm here to talk about today, so let's dive in!

The Hidden Power of Puzzle Weapons

Puzzle weapons are our spin on magic weapons in the world of The Bard’s Tale, and part of the Enhanced Crafting System stretch goal that you helped achieve. We want the sense of discovery to begin anew when you loot a magic weapon, rather than end as soon as you look at the tooltip. If you think back to the Kickstarter, you might remember this concept video:

 We used that mockup to explore several core concepts about puzzle weapons that really enchanted us. We loved the idea that a weapon could hold dormant power, and that you could be holding onto one of these weapons for hours or days without realizing exactly how powerful the weapon truly was. We loved the idea that not every part of the weapon was fully obvious, and that you might have to poke around to find how to unlock the next step. We also liked the idea that your weapon would transform in some way when its true power was finally unlocked. These are all core tenets we held onto when designing the full puzzle weapon system for The Bards Tale IV.

A Puzzle Weapon in full 3D glory (click for a larger version).

A puzzle weapon in full 3D glory.

This is what a puzzle weapon looks like now. Puzzle weapons were crafted by the elves in ages past, and left in the realm of men. They’re infused with powerful magic that can only be unlocked by the worthy. When the player finds them, their true power lays dormant. To unleash that power and allow it to flow fully through the weapon, you must manipulate and examine the item in 3D. Components of the weapon may be missing, puzzles might be scrambled, and riddles are most definitely accounted for.

Behind the scenes, puzzle weapons are generated from a large set of components, and found as high-tier loot as you adventure through the world. For example, a puzzle mace is constructed from a pommel, grip, collar, and bludgeon head. Each part features its own type of puzzle, and each puzzle has multiple variations and difficulties. The higher quality the item, the more ways to unlock its power you might find. The difficulty of the puzzles are based on your progress in the game, and how many other puzzle weapons you've previously solved.

 The anatomy of a Puzzle Weapon (click for a larger version).

The anatomy of a puzzle weapon.

In addition to self-contained puzzles that see you manipulating components on the item, there are also puzzles that interact with other elements of gameplay. Some puzzle weapons have you scouring merchants for magic gems for your weapon; others having you seeking out ancient shrines; while others still have you seeking to defeat specific enemies to feed the weapon with their blood; all the while you’re looking for hidden buttons, secret compartments, and manipulating small elements.

An In-Depth Look at Puzzle Weapon Mechanics

Let's go through an example. You've just found an Elven Mace with an empty power gem slot, and a set of interlocking rings around it. Rotate those rings the right way, and you'll spell out a riddle written in Elven language. The verse might read something as obvious as “As pure as snow and bright as moon, thy shining light is evil's doom.” - but many may be more cryptic.

Using the riddle, you'll determine which of the five differently colored Elven Seed Gems need to be inserted. Of course, finding one might require you to explore the world, barter with a merchant, or defeat a powerful enemy guarding it.

Elven Seed Gems are rare, but can sometimes be found on enemies or when trading with merchants

Elven Seed Gems are rare, but can sometimes be found on enemies or when trading with merchants.

With the correct Elven Seed Gem inserted into the pommel, the weapon now has its power source, and begins glowing with magic! So what happens next?

Each time you solve a component on a puzzle weapon, that weapon earns a boon. Boons are special effects that come in multiple strengths, and can evolve as you continue to unlock your weapon's powers. One boon category is the Elder boon, which has three strengths: ElderOf Ancient Slumber, and Ancestral. Your elven mace may become an Elder Elven Mace, meaning that its ability gains damage every single turn. Solve another component, and it becomes an Elven Mace of Ancient Slumber, which means that the first time it’s used in combat, it’s awoken, and deals a massive amount of bonus damage. Fully unlocking the weapon's true power could turn your mace into an Ancestral Elven Mace, which would cause this weapon to accumulate a large amount of bonus damage each turn it goes unused. And just to drive the point home, when you achieve the final tier of boon, the weapon visibly transforms to indicate that its magic is fully realized.

An unsolved Puzzle Weapon sword along with its completed counterpart (click for a larger version).

An unsolved puzzle sword along with its completed version.

But don’t get too eager buying up every Seed Gem you see and haphazardly jamming ithem into your puzzle weapons. The elves are strict folk and demand perfection. When answering riddles on your puzzle weapons, incorrect answers are punished with a curse. Curses are negative effects that apply to attacks made by that weapon. Similar to boons, they start out light, but as you answer question incorrectly time and time again, the curse grows in severity. One of our curse categories is Decaying, which has three tiers of severity: DullChipped, and Rust-Pocked. The first time you fail a riddle, your Elven Mace may become a Dull Elven Mace and suffer from a slight reduction in damage. Not so bad, even with the damage reduction it may still be the best weapon you have available. If you fail a riddle a second time, it becomes a Chipped Elven Mace instead. Now, instead of being dull, it has a % chance to be unusable for the rest of the fight after a single attack. If you continue to insist on guessing at the solution to the riddle, it finally becomes a Rust-Pocked Elven Mace, which imparts a much harsher curse: you’re only ever able to activate this weapon’s ability once per combat. Curses aren’t designed to make you throw away the weapon outright, but we do want you to think twice about trying to brute-force your way to a solution. There may be a way to remove curses in game, but don't expect it to be cheap or readily available.

A Puzzle Weapon staff in its final form

A puzzle weapon staff in its final form.

Both boons and curses influence how you use your weapon in combat, or how you might build a character. For example, a Rust-Pocked Ancestral Elven Dagger would lead to a boss-obliterating rogue build where you wait 5 or 6 turns to accrue an insane amount of bonus damage before using other strength-amplifying abilities to land a walloping final blow. Unlocking the true power of a puzzle weapon is a quest in its own right, and one well worth the effort if you ever hope to save the world of Caith.

A work-in-progress shot of one of our puzzle components: the grip maze.

Your Chance to Help Shape Our Next Update

With the game moving along in development, we'll be previewing character classes in our coming Kickstarter updates. Each of our character classes are found under one of four archetypes - Fighter, Practitioner, Rogue, and Bard. Classes are specialization lines within an archetype, and each archetype has between 4-6 classes. For example, if you'd like to play a Commander, you'd find them under the Fighter archetype. If you wanted to create a Sorcerer, you would find them under the Practitioner archetype. We couldn't quite decide on which class to preview first, so we decided to ask for your helpVote on which archetype you'd liketo see a preview from, and we'll choose a class to highlight in a future update. We will have more to say on the archetypes and all the classes moving forward and the game moves closer to release.

Thanks for reading, 
David Rogers 
Creative Director

A Portal Appears!

Hi everyone, Paul here with some long awaited news: the Backer Portal is live once again! As you may have seen in a previous update, we've been moving our backer data from our own web site to CrowdOx, which we've also used on Wasteland 3 with great results.


We'll be sending out emails to everyone soon, but you can get a head-start by visiting CrowdOx and entering the email address you used on Kickstarter. CrowdOx will then send you a link that you can use to confirm your backer info and rewards. Once you receive the email and click on the link provided, you will be brought to a survey page that will walk you through the pledge confirmation process. After you have confirmed your pledge, you will be able to access currently available awards, and see which ones you'll be receiving at a future date. Be sure to double-check to ensure details were imported correctly! This is also a great opportunity to update your shipping address if you had a reward level with physical goods included. If you have any problem with this process, you can write us via the support contact info listed on the page or at our Help Center.

In addition, this means that pledge upgrades, add-ons, and late backer pledging are once again available. If you were waiting on a particular reward level or add-on, or you had a friend who was waiting on backing the game, now's the time! Help us spread the word!

  • When doing your backer survey for CrowdOx, there won't be a choice for Steam or GOG code for your copy of The Bard's Tale IV. That option will become available close to the game's release.
  • Once you've completed and submitted your backer survey for CrowdOx, you will be sent another email with links to any unclaimed rewards (such as game codes). The email won't necessarily go out right away, so give it a few minutes to show up and be sure to check your spam folder, too.
  • If you have a problem with any part of this process or your pledge in general, you can reach out to us for help.
  • The permanent link for the backer site is:

Backer Rewards Update

In our previous update, inXile's own Greg Underwood confessed to initially pirating the original Bard's Tale before finally purchasing it. Fortunately, having Brian Fargo for a boss meant that he was able to deliver his apology in person, who absolved him of his past transgressions with this very special certificate:

The Certificate of Absolution

The Certificate of Absolution.

 Brian signing the very first certificate for Greg

Brian signing the very first certificate for Greg.

 Of course, many of our Kickstarter backers also asked to be forgiven, and we didn't want to keep Brian's blessing a Greg-exclusive reward. So, if you are one of our lucky backers who had the Guilt Absolution reward, you will now be able to find a high-res, printable version of this Certificate of Absolution by visiting CrowdOx and completing your backer survey!

Our Second Contest Winner!

Thanks to everyone who participated in our second "Write an Item Description" contest. We're pleased to announce that the winner of our drawing is... *drumroll*

 ...George Hope! George, drop us a private message on Kickstarter, and we'll get the process going! Thanks to all of you who participated! Remember - this second contest only happened because of how enthusiastic you have been about the game! We appreciate your support!

Crowdfunding Corner

Our suggestion for today's update is the quirky sci-fi adventure Obelus, where you play "an interplanetary insurance salesman, travelling and fighting aggressive fauna across the galaxy with no one but your trusty corporation approved mech AI for company." It's such a strange hook for a game, especially one that describes itself as an arcade combat sidescroller. With that narrative hook and some great looking pixel art design, we couldn't help but be intrigued. See for yourself!


That's it for now! You'll hear from us again later this month for our holiday well-wishes and a look forward to the future! In the meanwhile, remember to vote in the poll for our next update, and leave your comments below to let us know which archetype should win and which character class you hope to see revealed!

Until next update, 
Paul Marzagalli 
Public Relations & Community Manager