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From the creators of Wasteland 2 and Torment comes the long awaited sequel to the Bard's Tale trilogy. Thank you for making this game a reality. The bard is back!
From the creators of Wasteland 2 and Torment comes the long awaited sequel to the Bard's Tale trilogy. Thank you for making this game a reality. The bard is back!
33,741 backers pledged $1,519,680 to help bring this project to life.

Update 39: Puzzle Weapons, Backer Portal, and a Vote!

Posted by inXile entertainment (Creator)

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 (click for a larger version).


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 (click for a larger version).


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: Elder, Of 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 Weapon sword along with its completed counterpart (click for a larger 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: Dull, Chipped, 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
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 help! Vote on which archetype you'd like to 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

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Matthias, D-Boy, and 111 more people like this update.


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    1. Cohen on

      Please consider adding emulated Amiga versions of the Bard's Tale trilogy to the emulated DOS versions! They aged much better.

    2. William Buxton on

      I agree that Special weapons that are puzzles is cool, but with such taxing penalties, I'm better off looking it up in a guide, or Save-Scumming to avoid having the penalty and do it later.

      Alternative penalties could be having to wait till you can try again, wasting the gem that was incorrectly socketed? Least, if it is going to be a curse, have the curse with a duraation, so they can put it away for awhile and come back to it. Though yeah, chances are I'd rather save scum.

    3. Sir Chaox on

      Love the puzzle weapons! Sounds like you guys thought of everything for that. I do like the idea of each weapon having a long-term quest to unlock their true power. I hope that curses/boons cannot be avoided through save scumming, but I guess we can just play under our own rules for that (though I prefer the game restrict me, lest I give in to the F5 temptation!).

      Totally agree with everyone on the saving. I hope inXile does not cave in and add quick saving/save anywhere. Or at least offer multiple modes for those of us who want a more punishing experience.

    4. MadBeard on

      >So, too, IMHO, is instant health and spell regeneration after every fight, something most CRPGs now do to adapt to modern attention spans.

      So true. That's why currently I'm playing Elex. Pirahna Bytes games rules :D

    5. Missing avatar

      demeisen on

      > Quicksaving/loading is a blight on game design. Sigh.

      So, too, IMHO, is instant health and spell regeneration after every fight, something most CRPGs now do to adapt to modern attention spans.

      I hope BT4 won't go down that road either: having to manage a whole dungeon delve and get back alive was a key aspect of the originals.

    6. Zombra on

      Quicksaving/loading is a blight on game design. Sigh.

    7. Missing avatar

      demeisen on

      > I like good puzzles, but I'm not sure that curses are good idea. Majority of players will just save scum.

      Probably, unless maybe there's a way to undo the curse.

      I don't know how BT4 will work, but if my recollection serves me right, in BT1 you couldn't save scum :). The game only permitted saving at an inn, which took some effort to get back to, and sometimes you died trying.

      I think it might actually be nice, as a new-game option, for BT4 to support a "saving only permitted in selected safe areas" mode. Even as someone who prefers that style of having something on the line, the F5 button's allure is seductive sometimes. A game option would keep me honest!

    8. RoyT on

      There have been 39 updates so far. Maybe the emails have been delivered to your spam box? Quick update: yes there was another portal. The project is delayed till next year. The remastered BT I-II-III are indefinitely delayed.

    9. MadBeard on

      Puzzle weapons sounds fantastic idea, but I agree with Demeisen.
      I know that I'll not try to immediately google for solution. I like good puzzles, but I'm not sure that curses are good idea. Majority of players will just save scum.
      I think it's much better idea to somehow randomize puzzles and remove curses. Also finding ingame tips in books or maybe with a skill check or something would be nice. Maybe even NPC will provide us with solution if we do a quest for him. Stuff like that. Something like playing a pen&paper RPG.

      P.S. now you reminded me of Moredhel puzzle chests in Betrayal at Krondor. One of my best RPGs ever. I also use couple of those in my D&D sessions ;)

    10. Missing avatar

      Paul Bailey on

      Puzzle Weapons sounds fun! One problem I see is the gems (and the maze puzzle you displayed) seems to depend on colour. I'm colour blind, so hopefully there are tooltips in the puzzles and on the items where colour is an important feature?
      I'm looking forward to the final game. Keep working!

    11. Rivethead on

      Question for David/Paul: will we be able to visually see boons or curses on the puzzle weapons in our rag doll (on the main screen) or will this visual representation be insolated to an inventory screen? Based on what you've shown us, it appears the weapon visually changes as things are unlocked. I'm trying to understand where the player will see those changes.

      I absolutely love the puzzle weapons. When Brian talked about being influenced by The Room, I was really excited. It just makes sense add that type of gameplay into this game.


    12. Dan Spezzano on

      I was shocked to get an update for this game, I actually forgot I backed it. I also swear I already did a backer portal somewhere else but I went ahead and did it for the new one. Just so I'm clear a game I backed 2 years ago is just now making a portal?

      Also after completing the portal where exactly are the enhanced versions of the old games?

      I'm just a little confused what is going on, I really don't recall another update before yesterday and a lot of people seem to be in the loop and I'm not.

    13. Fitheach on

      I really like the puzzle weapons, one possible issue for me is you need to make the unlock process feel unique for each weapon not make it so feels like you are doing the same thing again and again for different weapons. Specifically don't make them into generic quest givers with tons of go there and get that type affairs. Nothing spoils the sense of discovery than realising you doing the same thing at the hangmans tree that you did at the cave of mad howling.

      Personally I don't play games for loot, so adding weapon effect and +1s isn't as interesting as the puzzles themselves and a hopefully healthy interaction with the games lore.

      I'll add I didn't like CrowdOx and wish you would stop forcing us to use ever more sites to get our rewards. Particularly when they feel like a significant downgrade.

    14. Missing avatar

      Michael Burns on

      All well and good, but when are we going to see a release? I'd rather have a game to play now with updates later, than to sit here and wait for features that I don't really care about at this point.

    15. AngoraFish on

      Puzzling for gear? Seriously, I can't think of anything worse or more immersion breaking.

      That epic bow that I just spent the last 45 minutes googling how to unlock? I've now made a few extra levels and a new even more super epic puzzle weapon has dropped. I guess that original I worked so hard at unlocking is now off to the vendor...

      Oh, and looks like I just inserted the wrong gem while experimenting? Sorry, you're now stuck with a crappy debuff so it's off to the vendor for you as well.

      No thanks.

      Can we please have a setting in the game options for puzzle weapons to be automatically unlocked somehow. Pretty please?

    16. Missing avatar

      Ritchie Tiongson on

      I like what I'm seeing. Very nice.

    17. Danial Watkins

      Took me awhile to see someone with a vote on the class archetype I wanted to see in the next update.

      My Vote is for Practioners. I love magic and really look forward to delving into the lore that they are building here. Even though in Puzzle weapons I will only be trying hardest on the ones I enjoy the most.

    18. Rivethead on

      @Deek - well said. I'm really looking forward to having the challenge of puzzle weapons. Am I up to it? Who knows? But even if I'm not, that doesn't mean I can't save Caith. Somebody has to. Might as well be me.

      PS: loved the update but a note about delivery target would have been nice.

    19. Ronny Bangsund on

      Save scumming is the only way I'll ever finish my vast backlog of games. I just activated Steam keys from as far back as 2012, which I dug out of my equally woeful mail backlog.

    20. DeeK on

      Fantastic idea with puzzle weapons. I am perfectly fine if you make the puzzles fiendishly difficult. More than happy if you need to research to find the solution, or need to observe the location to pick up on essential clues. Would love the weapon to turn on its owner, if it senses that they hate puzzle weapons. Honestly, I game because of the challenge, not because I want to practice google searches of solutions, and not because I feel entitled to the top stuff because I'm the player.

    21. John McMillen

      That's how the real Bard's Tale games were played, for hours at a time. Never in short bursts.

    22. T.J. Fuller, Jr.

      Wanna double-check before confirming on CrowdOx, these novellas, can they be bought after release?

    23. Jordan Joestar on

      Puzzles are nice but the non-sense CrowdOx, after I selected my reward, says that there's an error: "Please fix the errors above to continue. Goto first error".
      Unfortunately if the page means that I must add a name and a quote, well, I can't because I don't have any place where I can write.
      That's very annoying.

    24. Missing avatar


      I have serious reservations about all of this.

      I'm already pressed to find time to game and now you want to make the loot part of the game even more complicated on top of the stupidly complicated combat system?

      There's no jumping in for twenty or thirty minutes and jumping back out as life comes at you is there? Was there any consideration of that in these designs? It doesn't look like it.

    25. Shawn Duff on

      Have never received information about the portal before and now tried twice to get Crowdox to sent the links to me to no avail. This is seriously stupid!

    26. Missing avatar

      demeisen on

      IMHO: The puzzle weapon idea is pretty cool. The ones shown look nice graphically, too.

      It's true that the internet is now a massive spoiler for every possible thing, but you _can_ play spoiler-free if you want. Also, there's the idea of parameterized puzzles with randomly generated solutions, so you can't rote-copy a solution from an online source, but at least have to understand the gist of the thing a little bit.

      As for save scumming, I'm hoping the game will offer an optional ironman mode. I usually reserve that for my second play of a game I like, but it can add a good kind of stress to a game.

      Nice update.

    27. Kiwilander on

      I did find it satisfying playing through the puzzles of Room2 but have to agree with Gillsing and Marshall Lager. It is such a fine balance with puzzle difficulty now that gamers have "hive mind" internet resources not available at the time of the original Bard's Tales especially with increasing puzzle difficulty with the number solved and the overhanging threat of going backwards with curses. Riddles based on in game lore and mechanics are fairer than assuming out-of-game real world knowledge. Any puzzle that involves me, and not my bard character's skill roll, understanding musical notes or playing back a tune would see me having to resort to Google and reloading saves :-(

    28. Tomimt on

      I can't say I'm a huge fan of the CrowdOx site myself either, I liked the old portal better really. It had all the functionality needed and downloading or buying extra stuff was simple.

      That out of the way, I really dig the idea of puzzle weapons. That'll give an incentive of hanging on magical weapons longer than usual and tinkering with them surely takes the mind out from other stuff, allowing some additional diversion from other game puzzles.

    29. TheGratefulNed on

      I love the puzzle weapon idea! Can't wait to start fiddling around with them in the game.

    30. inXile entertainment 3-time creator on

      @Jason Seeley Drop us a note on our support email and detail out the problem so we can take a look.

      @DerekG Survey is working properly, but may be getting so many hits that it glitched. Votes are pouring in (it's a very close race in the early going).

      Regarding Puzzle Weapons and peoples' concerns about their difficulty, it's the same with any other game and any other feature. If you want to look at a FAQ or "save scum" your way to the best Puzzle Weapon possible, go right ahead. Engage the game in a way that works for you. The challenge and possible consequences are there for those players who want it. It's as much a roleplaying feature as anything else - an imperfect puzzle weapon reflects a player's unique journey through the game.

    31. Jason Seeley on

      CrowdOx doesn't reflect all of my later contributions toward additional rewards.

    32. Missing avatar

      DerekG on

      The archetype survey does not seem to work.

    33. RoyT on

      Too bad there’s no update on delivery date. After all, it’s almost “next year”

    34. Missing avatar

      Donald Pike on

      I really don't see why you changed to such a terrible site instead of keeping the old, actually functional backer site up. Before, I could log in, see what I have, download what was already available (like the beta for the remastered trilogy or the emulated version). With this Crowdox scam site, I get an email with broken links to the emulated trilogy. It's a good thing I back up everything religiously, and didn't really need the trilogy since I kept my originals from back in the day. Otherwise, my only option to get the classics would be to pirate the things, since the backer portal no longer allows me the option to download them.

      This doesn't give me any confidence that I'll see any of the other backer rewards either. If you broke that download, knowing most everyone backing BT4 already had the original games and wouldn't check, how do I know that I'll get later rewards, like BT4 itself or the novellas?

      No legitimate website has issues with my browser and add ons, so don't bother suggesting that's the problem. I'll know it's a lie, and know you're trolling.

    35. TrentJaspar on

      Somebody jog my memory-- wasn't there some kind of bonus during the KS for having backed T:ToN and/or Wasteland 2, like getting to choose a perk, including (among others) parts of the Bard's Tale or Torment soundtrack? I never did make my choice, and now I want to, but for the life of me I can't figure out where to make it.

    36. Vryl

      "We used that mockup to explore several core concepts about puzzle weapons that really enchanted us."

      Weapons can enchant people now instead of the other way around? Cool, did any of you get good bonuses?

    37. Gillsing on

      The curses on puzzle weapons sound like a strong incentive to brute force by save scumming, and reloading every attempt that doesn't result in a solved puzzle. And I don't like riddles, because in order to solve a riddle I have to think like the person who made the riddle. And chances are that I just don't think like that. Can't we just stick to meta-riddles like "how to maximize damage output and minimize damage input by abusing unintended synergies" like all other RPGs? Those puzzles aren't to difficult, and everyone can work together! :-)

    38. Missing avatar

      Marshall Lager on

      The puzzle weapons are a clever addition. The problem is they may be too clever. Something tells me that the vast majority of players (possibly including me) will hold off on messing around with puzzle weapons until the solution is posted somewhere, which will negate the impact of curses as well as any fun to be had in figuring out the solutions. I don't know the mechanics of generating puzzle items, but I expect there are a limited number of components and solutions, so the novelty may not last.

      Don't get me wrong—puzzle items are an innovation that you don't tend to find in major titles. I'm just raising my concerns and sharing my thoughts.

      I'd also like to encourage my fellow backers to vote for a preview of the Rogue archetype classes. Rogues/thieves were fairly useless in the original series, and they tend to be one-note characters in other games. I'd like to see how these issues have been addressed.

    39. Adam Sherman on

      I didn't remember puzzle weapons. Now I'm terrified I'm going to break every cool weapon I find. Pretty neat.

    40. Geoff May on

      Nice update. Not much in regards to tying in with the classic trilogy, but I'm liking the idea of puzzle weapons. The originals don't have upgradeable items, but the closest might be the armor material types. I like the idea of expanding 'tiers' into more than just finding/buying better items, but actually working for them by solving puzzles or completing tasks... nice.