Blood & Magic is a real-time strategy computer game released by Interplay Productions in 1996. It is set in the Utter East region of the Forgotten Realms campaign setting and uses the Dungeons & Dragons license.
After Strategic Simulations, Inc. lost the license to make D&D games, TSR, Inc. divided it between several publishers, one of which was Interplay. Although Interplay would go on to publish the Baldur's Gate series, its very first D&D game was Blood & Magic, which was also the first strategy computer game in D&D. Some US copies were packaged with a black Dragonmaster die for TSR's Dragon Dice and others with parts of the Double Diamond Triangle Saga. A demo version and source code were included in the The Forgotten Realms Archives collection of games in 1997. It has since become abandonware, freely available on several sites on the Internet, and the subject of recurring interest among fans.
The single-player mode includes a tutorial and five standard campaigns of increasing difficulty, with three maps each and two sides to each conflict that the player may choose to play. Completing one campaign at least once unlocks the next, and so on. These are followed by a long randomized campaign across every map three times, followed by a final epic battle. In total, there are 77 matches to play through, but with each standard map played at least five times.
The campaigns each have their own, independent storylines, ranging from traditional to epic and dark to comedic. Before and after each map, the story of each campaign is told by a voice-over narrator, partially in verse, over a series of gradually uncovered images.
- Voice-over: Steve Kramer
- In this tutorial set in the Doegan Capital, the player is instructed in gameplay by the Great Mage.
- Howl of Vengeance
- Illustrations: Peter Ledger; Voice-over: Mike Forest
- Stated Difficulty: Beginner
- In Howl of Vengeance, the barbarian leader Rathgar the Raider has conquers the kingdom of Doegan, but the dying king curses him, and the princess escapes to enlist the aid of Aelric the Avenger and his undead army. The player chooses either Rathgar to defend the realm or Aelric to retake it.
- Matchmaker Mayhem
- Illustrations: Maurice Morgan & Dan McMillan; Voice-over: Wendee Lee
- Stated Difficulty: Intermediate
- In Matchmaker Mayhem, Princess Roxanna of Edenvale duels would-be suitors for her hand in marriage. The player chooses either Roxanna to fend off her suitors or Bryan the Bold to win her affections.
- Tartyron Unbound
- Illustrations: Maurice Morgan; Voice-over: Mike Forest
- Stated Difficulty: Experienced
- In Tartyron Unbound, Tartyron, the Lord of Chaos, escapes his subterranean prison and is opposed by the lords of Order, in a conflict of law versus chaos. The player chooses either Tartyron in his fight to escape, or the Circle of Order in their effort to drive him back to his prison.
- Nuts and !Bolts
- Illustrations: Brian Menze; Voice-over: Steve Kramer
- Stated Difficulty: Veteran
- In Nuts and !Bolts, two feuding, treasure-hunting brothers, Garrulos the Occasionally Good and Wormskull the Artificer find a magical pearl, which Garrulos steals. The player chooses either brother as they fight over the pearl.
- This is the most overtly cartoonish and comedic of the campaigns. It introduces a new threat, the Juggernaut, a large-sized neutral unit that rampages through the final map and cannot be controlled by the player.
- Harvest of Horrors
- Illustrations: Alex Nino; Voice-over: Steve Kramer
- Stated Difficulty: Expert
- In Harvest of Horrors, the monsters of the Kingdom of Nix, led by Redfang the Reaper, prey upon the villagers of Vanesci Hamlet. The mage Haradan the Hermit shows up to defend the folk. The player chooses either Haradan as they defend the village and take the fight to the enemy, or Redfang as they defend against invaders and pursue them to the village.
- This campaign introduces new units on Redfang's side, with the Goblin, Harpy, and Enchanter. There is also a cauldron that converts captured creatures to mana.
- Legendary/Random Campaign
- Illustrations: Brian Menze; Voice-over: Mike Forest, Steve Kramer, Wendee Lee
- In the Legendary Campaign (also titled "Random Campaign"), the player takes the role of a legendary leader who must unify the wartorn land through conquest, with a campaign taking in all the maps. They may create their own character or accept a randomized one with a random selection of names: male, female, elven and monstrous options are all possible. The first map is chosen, the rest are random, and each is taken three times. In each battle, the player faces a randomised opponent, not just in appearance but in unit selections and locations. Finally, the player character has conquered all the realms and rules as overlord, before going to the Hall of Legends to face the Immortals and become one themself. This final battle introduces the dangerously tough guardians.
- There is a peculiar bug here. When characters are made for the Legendary Campaign, they're always Lawful Good, the one aspect that can't be chosen. When the Hall of Legends (an in-game leaderboard of player-characters and their scores) is selected from the main menu, they're all still specified as Lawful Good. However, the Hall of Legends is also displayed between battles, and on these occasions all the characters are specified as Neutral Evil. It seems possible that optional alignments with matching backstories were attempted during development, but then canned, leaving this issue.
In this real-time strategy game, players take the roles of mages who command armies of constructed golems, humanoids, and monsters and wage battles against AI opponents or each other in the multiplayer mode. Mission goals are simple: destroy a specific structure such as a keep or eliminate all enemy units and structures. While the gameplay is similar to popular contemporaneous games like Dune II, Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, and Command & Conquer, which defined the archetypal RTS game, Blood & Magic has a number of distinct differences and original features.
The basic units are called basal golems, which are created at a site called a bloodforge at a fixed location on the battle-map. They fight, generate mana when idle in the form of obelisks (transferred in bursts of ten points, unless ordered to earlier), and can be transformed into defensive walls or into more advanced and specialized units. In order to transform basal golems into advanced units, the player needs to create a sacred shrine on a mystical site by moving four basal golems onto a foundation (at set locations on the battle-map), whereupon they may be transformed into a building of the player's choice. The building chosen will affect the units available. Another basal golem placed adjacent to the sacred shrine can then be transformed into one of the available unit types.
The five types of sacred shrine are the Arbor Lodge, Barracks, Crypt, Runestone, and Temple. The Barracks produces typically strong and virtuous military units with power and stamina: Warrior, Ranger, and Paladin, as well as Goblin in specific levels. The Temple produces divine units that combine healing with damage: Cleric, Fury, and Paladin, as well as Enchanter in specific levels. The Arbor Lodge produces nature-focused units that are agile and perform best in wilderness terrain: Druid, Ranger, Griffon, and Nymph. The Runestone produces magical units of various capabilities: Wizard, Gnome, Stone Golem, and Wyrm. The Crypt produces sinister and undead units, they are tough but hard to heal: Zombie, Gargoyle, Ghoul, and Wraith, as well as Harpy in specific levels.
The game has two abstract resources. The first is the traditional mana points system, which is generated by the bloodforges and idle basal golems, found through magic items, and, in certain maps, obtained by disposing of enemy units in a cauldron. Mana points are used to upgrade units, use magical effects, and construct buildings. With nothing to mine or harvest, this simplifies resource collection. The other resource is experience points, which are acquired through game play by creating and transforming basal golems, building and destroying structures, using magic, and killing enemy units. It is used to conduct research unlocking new advanced unit types.
There are also various items to find and collect. These can aid travel over different types of terrain or produce special effects. Individual units can carry these and use their powers or benefit from their effects, and drop them when they die.
After each battle, the player is given a score on their performance. During the Legendary Campaign, this score is accumulated and recorded in the Hall of Legends leaderboard.
Compared to the classic RTSs of the time, Blood & Magic's unique features cause a subtly different style of play. Rather than erecting a structure wherever there is space, the fixed, predefined locations for bloodforges and mystical sites, which may be far apart on each map, force players to find, claim, and defend these strategic locations. Moreover, as locations for mystical sites are limited, players are restricted in what they can build and how many they can have. The player may be forced to choose between a Barracks or Crypt, which will affect the strengths of their army and their tactics.
While the mana generation system simplifies resource collection, reviewers and players have noted that it negatively affects game balance. Although mana is capped at 300 points, there are no limits on production bar its use and no limits on the number of basal golems. Stationary basal golems are easier to protect than the moving harvesters of other RTSs, and can defend themselves to a degree, so it is not necessary to protect supply chains. More mana allows more basal golems in turn leads to more mana. As a result, although mana production is slow and uncertain in the early part of each battle, exponential growth can occur in the later part, making things markedly easier for the player.
Fortunately, for the player but not for the challenge, the opponent AI does not take advantage of this exponential growth. It is about as capable as similar RTSs of the time: it can create and dispatch small attack forces, find and use items, and use powers, though its defenses are lacking. While it can be a threat early on, battles mostly come down to the player surviving, establishing themselves, and then mopping up the enemy. Problematic pathfinding also means groups of units can struggle to go around obstacles or through narrow spaces.
Some reviewers complain about a high degree of micromanagement needed for collection of mana—the player must find and click on each individual basal golem, then click a "transfer" button to obtain the mana it has generated. This is somewhat unnecessary, however: basal golems will transfer their mana automatically upon reaching ten points. It is only necessary to transfer sooner when the player is in need of more mana, when the basal golem is about to be slain, or when the player is bored, or maybe just meditating with the golems.
The pace of gameplay has been noted to be rather slow: units are slow to move, mana is slow to accumulate, and so on. While this may be comparable to earlier RTSs like Dune II and Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, it is well behind that of Warcraft II. Similarly, Blood & Magic's graphics look little better than those of Warcraft: Orcs & Humans, released two years earlier, but worse than those of Warcraft II, released a year earlier.
Blood & Magic uses the Dungeons & Dragons license and is set in the Forgotten Realms campaign setting, in a heretofore unknown region that would become known as the Utter East. Despite this, it has few connections to either D&D or the Realms, instead using largely generic fantasy elements with many deviations from conventional D&D, such as its medusa-like gorgons and goblin-like gnomes. In common with core D&D are its green regenerating trolls, the use of an alignment system in character creation for the Legendary Campaign (albeit restricted to lawful good), and a mind flayer face in character creation and randomized opponents. It seems likely the D&D license was only a late-stage or desultory introduction during development
It has a few more connections with the Realms beyond using the map, with references to the Great Sea and being set "before the Time of Troubles". Most explicit are the names and holy symbols of the gods Chauntea (though closer in concept to Silvanus), Lathander, Mystra, Myrkul, and Tempus for its sacred shrines and Well of Immortals in the Hall of Legends map, as well as a strong suggestion of Gond at the Hall of Wonder. Most obvious is the cover art: the painting "Deadlock" by Larry Elmore, which also graces The Bloodstone Lands and several other Realms works. However, even the generic European-style fantasy setting of Blood & Magic is quite out-of-place in a land tucked between the Shining Lands and Zakhara, where an Asian- or Arabian-style setting might be expected to better fit with the surrounding cultures and history.
Instead, Blood & Magic hinges on some quite novel concepts of faithful golems that meditate to produce mana and that can transform into structures and advanced creatures, and on mysterious bloodforges that create them from, as the name and advertising material suggest, fire, blood, and magic, utterly unlike the stock fantasy concepts used in Warcraft at the time. The final campaign pits the player against mysterious Immortals, who may or may not be the above-named gods. But these interesting ideas are barely hinted at in game materials.
In 1998, the Utter East was developed further, with the novels of the Double Diamond Triangle Saga and Faces of Deception and the Realms of Mystery short story "Darkly, Through a Glass of Ale" all published in that year and set in and around the Utter East. These all made efforts to adapt details from the Blood & Magic game and to incorporate South Asian and more fantastical elements so it better suited the area. Copies of parts of the Double Diamond Triangle Saga were even included in later releases of Blood & Magic to provide background material. In the years after, the area would be forgotten and then perennially recalled by fans, who'd speculate on its concepts and develop various fanon theories.
Curiously, the Eberron Campaign Setting, debuted in 2004, is based on five kingdoms that fought a long and devastating war, with one side fielding armies of undead and all sides using manufactured armies of warforged, golem warriors made using legendary creation forges. There are also artificers and a goblin kingdom. It all sounds a bit familiar.
Reviews of Blood & Magic were generally moderate, praising some features and criticizing some flaws and noting its mediocrity.
Trent Ward of Gamespot on November 7, 1996, noted "well balanced and challenging" maps, "interesting and varied" units", strong character design", and a "pleasant soundtrack" and "superb sound effects", but also criticized the micromanagement, slow pace, "irritating" AI, and "mediocre" graphics. It concluded "Blood & Magic's basic premise is entertaining enough that die-hard strategy fanatics may be able to overlook its interface problems.", gave a score of Fair, 6.5/10.
Aaron Nicholls of Gamezilla in 1996 gave a quite positive review, sating "In the quickly bloating, copycat real-time strategy genre, Blood and Magic is an anomaly. It doesn't look like many other games, and it doesn't play like them either." and said it "displays more creativity than duplication", and concluded "Although not a ground-shaking release, I feel that this game has been somewhat overlooked... While it may not have the catchy graphics of other titles, Blood and Magic is more immersing and refreshing than any other title of its type on the market." He gave it 87/100.
Andy Butcher in Arcane magazine #15, January 1997, wrote that it was easy to pick up and had enough variety in units and battles to keep playing for a while, and called it a simplified version of Warcraft II, but not as involving or as fun. He concluded "Blood & Magic does what it does in an effective and playable manner, but it simply doesn't offer enough to be a great game. There's nothing really wrong with it, but there's nothing that makes it stand out, either." with a rating of 6/10.
The newspaper The Herald-News on April 12, 1997, had a largely positive review, calling the game "habit-forming" and noting the variety or units and terrains as its strengths and its enemy AI and extra clicks for resource management as its weaknesses. The Buffalo News on July 22, 1997, described the storyline as "deep" and gave it a C rating.
It was described by RPG historian Michael J. Tresca as "in essence, Magic: The Gathering in computer game format."
In Gamespy's "A History of D&D Video Games" by Allen Rausch in 2004, Blood & Magic was counted amongst the "truly atrocious D&D games" that followed SSI. Rausch said Interplay "didn't distinguish itself straight out of the gate" and that Blood & Magic "wasn't the worst" RTS and that " it certainly proceeded from a good idea", but criticized the resource model and "remarkably slow" pace, concluding "It didn't take long before gamers started to realize that—even as the RTS genre was exploding—there was nothing here that should drag them away from Warcraft II or Red Alert.
Time and players would be more kind to Blood & Magic, generally giving good reviews that describe it as intriguing and challenging, deep and tactical, polished and enjoyable if flawed, with ratings at Gamespot averaging at 7.1/10. It has been the subject of streamed games, retrospectives, and obsessively detailed wiki articles.
- Player/Computer Characters
- Aelric the Avenger • Bryan the Bold • Garrulos the Occasionally Good • Haradan the Hermit • Lady of Tides • Lord of Flame • Lord of Lands • Rathgar the Raider • Redfang the Reaper • Roxanna of Edenvale • Tartyron • Wormskull the Artificer
- Randomized Computer Characters
- Galen Addakal • Brigitte Bannal • Gim Blacktongue • Wyrin Bloodclaw • Hjerik Broadkin • Moria Chantel • Kala Danirith • Anson Darkeye • Deliah Deguerre • Madja Djiid • Drago Dreadloch • Illnar Dreth • Turik Dumark • Wurt Dumire • Patric Fulgirth • Gareth Gimorrin • Fegg Gnash • Jesse Hearthe • Hariah Highkin • Ebon Lefash • Shari Lightfoot • Adan Longstride • Niro Longtooth • Dawn MacDare • Moro Mitedigger • Eldura Moreen • Sean Mulhaven • Shandra Mystahr • Korr Odahn • Venar Orknal • Stivanu Pantel • Raven Remahr • Tyranis Shagal • Saja Stillwater • Ibin Stormrider • Dumar Sturmarik • Timmis Taern • Darah Thorne • Amber Vikdotter • Willem Warblade • Wulfgang Warts • Olgala Zug
- Other Characters
- Connor the Clever • Grubkern • King of Doegan • King of Edenvale • Princess of Doegan
- Referenced only
- Baykon the Bard • the Epic Urus • Grey Shian • Haliph Axe • Pavisi the Prophet • Tok Ville the Traveler • Great Mage (Bloodforge)
- Basal Golem Forms
- Basal golem: cleric • druid • enchanter • fury • ghoul • gnome • goblin • griffin • harpy • nymph • paladin • ranger • stone golem • warrior • wizard • wraith • wyrm • zombie
- Other Creatures
- brigand • gorgon (Utter East) • guardian (Hall of Legends) • Juggernaut (Wormskull) • peasant • roc • snapping turtle • troll • wolf
- Buildings & Sites
- Edenvale Castle • Hall of Legends • Hall of Wonder • High Cradle Keep • Old Stone Keep • Puzzle Palace
- Doegan Capital • Vanesci Hamlet
- Forbidden Plateau • Web Mountains • Wu Pi Te Shao Mountains • Yehimal Mountains
- Herne's Wood • Mines of Mystery • Phantom Pass • Sempadan Forest • Serpent Valley
- Doegan • Edenvale • Kingdom of Nix • Konigheim • Realm of Lands • Realm of Fire • Realm of Tides
- Utter East • Great Sea
- bloodforge • mystical site • (Arbor Lodge • Barracks • Crypt • Runestone • Temple)
- berserker brew • boar burger • bog boots • daemon's bane • drift disc • frost cape • healing salve • mana orb • might mantle • map • mason mix • Pearl of Power • sacred urn • shrub sprite • storm bracers • teleport tome • trailfinder • verdant shield • virtue veil • weird wand
- Core Development Team
- Vasken Nokhoudian Sayre (as Vas Nokhoudian): Game Designer, Project Manager, Art Director, Lead Writer
- John Hamilton: Lead Programmer (Game Engine)
- Vangelis Van Dempsey (as Vangelis): Junior Lead Programmer (Main Game)
- Kevin Sherrill: Applications Programmer (Cinematics and Support Screens)
- Tramell Ray "T-Ray" Isaac: Character and Environment Animator, Opening Cartoon Designer and Animator
- Brian Menze: Inset and Portrait Artist, Map Designer and Artist
- Jana Darkoski: Map Designer and Artist
- Leigh Kellogg: Map Designer and Artist, Campaign Portrait Artist
- Background Illustrators
- Tramell Isaac: Opening Cartoon
- Maurice Morgan: Tartyron Unbound, Matchmaker Mayhem, Nuts and !Bolts
- Peter Ledger: Howl of Vengeance
- Alex Nino: Harvest of Horrors
- Daniel B. "Dan" McMillan: Matchmaker Mayhem
- Brian Menze: Nuts and !Bolts, Computer Artist (all stories)
- Tigre Engine
- John Crane, Brian K. Hughes, Kimberly L. Bowdish, Russell Woods, John Hamilton, Chris Iden, Kevin Sherrill, Vangelis: Programmers
- John Crane, Kimberly L. Bowdish: Programmers
- Ila Shadday, Eric C. Heitman, Tramell Isaac, Robert Collier, Brian Menze, Deena Ellis, Cheri Loyd, Ernst Shadday, W. Bryan Ellis, Jay Christopher Esparza: Artists
- Support Staff
- Chris Iden: Head Honcho
- Marie Iden: Big Cheese
- Nancy Grimsley: Story Prologue Writer, Paycheck Fairy
- Sonia Graves, Shelly Sischo: Office Wrangler
- Rachel Ackerman: Assistant Wrangler
- Donna Wyatt: Paycheck Fairy
- Mediatech West
- Ron Saltmarsh: Lead Music Composer, Sound Effects Composer
- Andy Warr: Music Composer, Sound Effects Composer
- Shaun Mitchell, Cartoon Colorist Manager
- Voice Performance
- Mike Forest: Main Game, Howl of Vengeance, Tartyron Unbound, Legendary Campaign
- Steve Kramer: Tutorial, Nuts and !Bolts, Harvest of Horrors, Legendary Campaign
- Wendee Lee: Matchmaker Mayhem, Legendary Campaign
- Melodee M. Spevack: Voice Director
- Randy Vandegrift, Greg Gill: Sound Technicians
- Michael McConnohie: Voiceworks Liaison
- Interplay Productions
- Brian Fargo: Head Honcho
- Phil Adam: Big Cheese
- Bill Church: Producer
- Christopher M. "Chris" Benson: Assistant Producer
- Mark O'Green, Feargus Urquhart: TSR Foreman
- Todd J. Camasta: Art Consultant
- Bill Dugan: MacIntosh Consultant
- Craig Owens: Lead Marketer
- Genevieve Waldman (as Genevieve Ostergard): Lead Public Relations
- Zeb Cooke: Story Prologue Writer, Manual Introduction
- Dave Gaines: Art Director
- Patrizia Scharli: Documentation Designer
- Julian B. Ridley: Localization Manager, International Product Manager
- Bill Hamelin: Traffic Manager
- JBI, Los Angeles: International Translation
- Gary Burke, Sylvie Nguyen: Additional Translation
- Michael Bernstein, Jay Patel: Fireman
- Interplay Sound and Music
- Charles Deenan: Audio Translation
- Brian Luzietti: Music Director
- Craig Duman: Audio Technician
- Rick Jackson, Ron Valdez: Music Composer, FM Translation
- Gregory R. "Greg" Allen: Sound Effects Composer
- Sergio A. Bustamante II: Voice Processing
- Quality Assurance
- Jeremy S. Barnes, Chad Allison: Director of QA
- Chad Allison, Jim Boone, Colin Totman: Assistant Directors
- Darren L. Monahan, John Werner: Coordinators
- Aarin Meyers, Bill Delk: IS Technician
- Marvic Ambata, Jason L. Nordgren, Chad Allison: Lead Testers
- Douglas W. Avery, Steve Baldoni, Jeremy S. Barnes, Marc Duran, Casey Fawcett, Bill Field, Matt "Basal" Golembiewski, David "Dave" Hendee, Greg Hersch, Ronald "Rod" Hodge, Darrell Jones, Chris Keenan, Michael Krueger, Erick Lujan, Amy Mitchell, Matt Murakami, Glen Murray, Evan Chantland, Richard Barker, Greg Baumeister, Kaycee Varradaman, Phuong Nguyen, David Gene Oh, Stephan Reed, Shanna Sanpaolo, Usana Shadday, Kyle Shubel, Shelby Strategier, Anthony Taylor, Steve Victory, Frank Wesolek
- John Werner: Director of Compatibility
- Marc Duran, Dan Forsyth, Derek Gibbs, Phuong Nguyen, Aaron Olaiz, Jack Parker
- Compatibility Technicians
- James Ward: Head Honcho
- David Wise: Forgotten Realms Manager
- Julia Martin: Forgotten Realms Consultant
- Cover Art
- Larry Elmore (uncredited)
This game is dedicated to the memory of Peter Ledger.
- Opening Trailer for Blood & Magic Demo Version
- Blood & Magic at MobyGames
- Blood & Magic article at Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia.
- ↑ Brian R. James and Ed Greenwood (September, 2007). The Grand History of the Realms. (Wizards of the Coast), pp. 94, 95. ISBN 978-0-7869-4731-7.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 Rausch, Allen (2004-08-18). A History of D&D Video Games - Part IV. Game Spy. Retrieved on November 15, 2012.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 Tresca, Michael J. (2010). The Evolution of Fantasy Role-Playing Games. (McFarland), p. 144. ISBN 078645895X.
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 Blood & Magic for PC Review - PC Blood & Magic Review. Retrieved on September 26, 2012.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 Amado Glick (2015-07-15). Blood & Magic. Hardcore Gaming 101. Retrieved on 2020-06-18.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Andy Butcher (January 1997). "Reviews: Blood & Magic", Arcane #15 (PDF). Future Publishing. p. 69. Archived from the original on 2016-9-3. Retrieved on 2020-06-15.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 7.2 Aaron Nicholls (1996). "Blood & Magic"". Archived from the original on 2001-6-4. Retrieved on 2020-06-18.
- ↑ 8.0 8.1 "Taking D&D to the Next Level". The Herald-News. April 12, 1997. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1N1-0EB0958251BB85AA.html. Retrieved September 26, 2012 archiveurl=https://web.archive.org/web/20160816120922/https://www.highbeam.com/doc/1N1-0EB0958251BB85AA.html.
- ↑ "Floating Islands and Aggressive Aliens". The Buffalo News. July 22, 1997. http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-22940407.html. Retrieved September 26, 2012.
- ↑ Blood & Magic Reviews. Retrieved on June 18, 2020.
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