Originaly titled Tales of the Unknown: Volume I, better known by its subtitle The Bard's Tale, is a fantasy role-playing video game designed and programmed by Michael Cranford, produced by Interplay Productions in 1985 and distributed by Electronic Arts. It spawned "The Bard's Tale" series of games and books.
The Bard's Tale was noteworthy among other role-playing computer games at the time for its unprecedented 3D graphics and partly animated character portraits. The concept of the Bard was also an innovation: "The Bard was author Michael Cranford's contribution to the genre, a character who casts spells by singing one of six tunes."
It was originally released for the Apple II, and was also ported to the Commodore 64, Apple IIgs, ZX Spectrum, Amstrad CPC, Amiga, Atari ST, MS-DOS, Macintosh, and NES platforms.
Story text from the box cover
Long ago, when magic still prevailed, the evil wizard Mangar the Dark threatened a small but harmonious country town called Skara Brae. Evil creatures oozed into Skara Brae and joined his shadow domain. Mangar froze the surrounding lands with a spell of Eternal Winter, totally isolating Skara Brae from any possible help. Then, one night the town militiamen all disappeared.
The future of Skara Brae hung in the balance. And who was left to resist? Only a handful of unproven young Warriors, junior Magic Users, a couple of Bards barely old enough to drink, and some out of work Rogues.
You are there. You are the leader of this ragtag group of freedom fighters. Luckily you have a Bard with you to sing your glories, if you survive. For this is the stuff of legends. And so the story begins...
In the Bard's Tale, the player forms a group of up to six characters. Game progress is made through advancing the characters so that they are powerful enough to defeat the increasingly dangerous foes and monsters in the dungeons, obtaining certain items relevant to solving the overall quest, and obtaining information.
The fictional town of Skara Brae (with no connections to the real-world historical site of the same name) consists of 30x30 map tiles containing either buildings or streets (plus gates and magical guardian statues blocking certain streets). Access to one tower in the northeastern and southwestern city corner each is blocked by locked gates. The main city gates which open to the west are blocked by snow, and remain impassable throughout the game. One street seems to lead south endlessly, by actually teleporting the party back to its beginning upon reaching the portion where the city walls would be.