The Spellcasting Series
aka: Spellcasting 101
A trilogy of text adventure games written by Steve Meretzky
in the early 1990s, published by Legend Entertainment
. Legend used some of the tools of the day to spice up the traditional text format, including a graphics mode and some light sound effects and music via Real Sound. They are adult in theme
but relatively tasteful in that regard, and the primary aim is providing biting humor
and brain-tickling puzzles
The games chronicle the adventures of Ernie Eaglebeak, an aspiring young wizard attending classes at Sorcerer University
. While Ernie spends the three games embarking on wild adventures
and bedding a considerable number of beautiful women
, he is consistently viewed as a total dork
by almost everyone around him. Just go with it.
Each game features inevitable encounters with Ernie's lifelong crush
Lola Tigerbelly; quasi-mentor Otto Tickingclock
and his young wife, Hillary
, and Ernie's evil stepfather
, Joey Rottenwood.
The three games are:
- Spellcasting 101: Sorcerers Get All the Girls (1990)
- Spellcasting 201: The Sorcerer's Appliance (1991)
- Spellcasting 301: Spring Break (1992)
A fourth entry, The Graduation Ball
, was planned but never published
These games provide examples of:
- Absurdly Spacious Sewer: Sorcerer University has a large and complex sewer system beneath it in 201, which Ernie must use for rapid and/or secretive transit. The tunnels are large enough for an elevephant to walk through without issue. Unlike a lot of video game examples of this trope, though, Ernie doesn't get the luxury of walking on nice clean ledges and pipes. The smell in some areas is said to be more than Ernie can bear, and occasionally, even more than a bear could bear.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Ernie continues to be stuck on Lola throughout the series, despite her insufferable personality and greedy disposition. It gets harder to swallow after Ernie meets plenty of other women who aren't nearly as self-centered, but that's love for you. Whether this would've been resolved in 401—with either Ernie becoming wealthy or Lola dropping her Gold Digger tendencies—is unknown.
- Ancient Artifact: The Sorcerer's Appliance, which serves as the MacGuffin of 101 but becomes a vital tool in 201.
- Anything That Moves: Hillary Tickingclock, to increasingly absurd degrees. Taken to its logical conclusion in 301: Hillary simply lies in a hotel room all day while an endless line of men take tickets outside her hotel room door to wait their turn.
- Back from the Dead: Reviving Otto with the Sorcerer's Appliance is the only way to stop Joey's plan in 201.
- Back to Front: One level in 101 begins with you leaving the island and ends with you arriving on the island.
- Bad Cop/Incompetent Cop: Sheriff Wormpoop in 301, who arrests Ernie about half a dozen times throughout the game (sometimes justifiably, sometimes not) but never seems to recognize him as a repeat offender. He also continues to lock Ernie into an entirely inadequate cell with about ten different solutions for escape, without confiscating Ernie's spellbook or gear.
- Though he does take precautions to ensure the same escape plan will never work twice. Dig a tunnel and he'll install a concrete floor. Turn the bars to rust and he'll replace them with non-metallic bars, and so on.
- Bag of Spilling: Ernie drops back to Level 2 at the beginning of 201 and Level 3 in 301, as well as losing almost all of his learned spells between games. Semi-justified after 101, since the final battle requires you to destroy your own spellbook with a flamethrower, and because having a spellbook with more than 40 spells in it would make both the developers and players go insane from the sheer volume of possible puzzle solutions they would have to consider.
- Betting Mini-Game: There's a casino in 301 featuring three games of chance, although they're unwinnable unless Ernie can make the casino less crooked. A player can complete the entire game without ever having to gamble by selling unneeded items at the pawn shop, but this will likely require knowing the game quite well.
- Big Bad: Joey Rottenwood in each game, who manages to hide his machinations through a series of increasingly absurd disguises.
- Bond Villain Stupidity: Joey has this, but is fully aware of that fact and spoofs it accordingly. Telling the hero his plans in exquisite detail is just something a villain has to do.
- Bowdlerise: Each game features a 'Nice Mode' which edits out the adult content and replaces the sexual encounters with humorously wholesome activities like doing crossword puzzles.
- Butt Monkey: Ernie, of course, but Otto has it even worse. Ernie is the only one of the two having sex with Otto's wife, after all.
- Calvinball: Pokkaball, which seems to be the national sport of Peloria. A player can watch an entire match and read various pokkaball-related stories in the student newspaper, but the game remains hilariously dangerous and utterly incomprehensible.
- Cardboard Prison: Ernie gets thrown into one half a dozen times in the third game. The local sheriff does fix every security vulnerability you exploit to break out, but since there are more gaps in the security than there are opportunities to get arrested, it's highly unlikely that the player will ever be stuck in that cell for more than fifteen minutes game time at a stretch.
- Card-Carrying Villain: Joey Rottenwood. He even has a villainy handbook he follows to make sure he's doing his job properly.
- Censor Steam: Used to hide the showering girls at Barmaid University, until Ernie busts out the magic. The girls then each go for their towels, giving you two Censorship Tropes in one tidy sequence.
- Chekhov's Gun: The popular book in 101, though some might argue it is more of a Brick Joke.
- Chivalrous Pervert: Ernie, who refuses to take advantage of a drugged girl named Gretchen whom he rescued from a party, despite being willing to sleep with just about any other woman that walks by.
- College Widow: Hillary becomes one in 201 when Otto dies, although this has no noticeable impact on her mood or sex drive. She'll gladly sleep with Ernie while wearing her mourning clothes, for that extra touch of class.
- Cool Board: The magical surfboard in 101 which Ernie uses to travel between islands.
- Copy Protection: Various kinds were used throughout the series, including inputting information from included registration forms, and maps that were required for navigation in certain areas. The most inspired method was in 201, which included a set of sheet music you needed to play the moodhorn properly.
- Distressed Damsel: Lola is one toward the end of 101. Ernie bravely defeats a dragon and scales a castle to free her... which has no effect on her poor opinion of him.
- Double Standard: Rape, Female on Male: The women at the Island of the Amazons will assault Ernie whenever they get their hands on him, to the point where they draw swords if he refuses due to increasing exhaustion. This will end up killing Ernie if he can't escape the island in time. This, of course, is played for laughs. Considering the irreverent tone of the game, though, the trope isn't particularly offensive in this instance.
- Dude, Where's My Respect?: Ernie's reward each time he saves the University (or perhaps even the world) from certain doom? A trophy with his name misspelled on it.
- Eccentric Mentor: Otto, whose occasional moments of lucidity or physical dexterity prove to be crucial to Ernie's adventures. Because of the game's comedic nature, however, Otto tends to be more of a senile Butt Monkey than a mentor proper.
- Everybody Has Lots of Sex
- Evil Laugh: Joey has an especially good one.
- Evil Sorcerer: The Big Bad and Evil Sorcerer in Sorcerers Get All the Girls (And both of the other games, as well) turns out to be the protagonist's abusive stepfather.
- Fiery Redhead: Amazon leader Ursula Unquenchablefire from 101.
- Functional Magic: Spells are a major part of Ernie's arsenal and are required to solve a majority of the puzzles. There are spells for even mundane tasks, like Foy, which makes yummy daiquiris.
- The Gods Must Be Lazy: Ernie travels to the Island of the Gods on 101, where the various deities basically spend their time loafing around and engaging in petty squabbles. Their apathy has even led to a titanic garbage dump that Ernie is forced to clean up.
- Gold Digger: Lola Tigerbelly, who tolerates Ernie's presence only if he has a pile of literal gold on-hand.
- Golden Snitch: After the last official contest in 301, the judge says that since the scores are so close, she'll have one last contest worth enough points to give whichever frat completes it victory. This happens even if one side won every contest hands-down, meaning that the score is totally lopsided. This is because the judge is actually the Big Bad, and the whole competition was a setup to get someone to complete this task, which will provide him with the means to enact his latest evil scheme.
- Gravity Is a Harsh Mistress: "The cartoon figure who has no problem walking on air until he realizes he's doing it" example is mentioned in a spellcasting professor's lecture.
- Hijacked by Ganon: No matter who the villain seems to be, you just know Joey Rottenwood will be your final obstacle.
- Hilariously Abusive Childhood: Ernie is enduring one before he decides to escape to Sorcerer University.
- Hurricane of Puns: The Island of Lost Soles puzzle in 101, based on recognizing a description of something and coming up with a homophone for it that's also a given name.
- Immodest Orgasm: A trademark of Hillary Tickingclock, along with Otto somehow managing to sleep through it, sometimes while in the same room.
- Initiation Ceremony: All of 201. The tasks assigned to Ernie are potentially lethal (Because the pledgemaster doesn't like him), while the ones assigned to everyone else are just highly amusing to watch.
- Interspecies Romance: Ernie must make an elevephant fall in love with him in 201 so it will follow him around campus without stomping him into paste. Ernie, of course, keeps the relationship entirely platonic. Hillary, on the other hand...
- It Came from the Fridge: The dire contents of Ernie's fridge seem to get worse with each game. Even opening it just a crack can make Ernie pass out.
- Kavorka Man: Ernie sleeps with a bunch of gorgeous women in his travels, including Libido, the sexy young Queen of Peloria and even Ocarina, the in-universe pantheon's goddess of beauty. While the games take pains to provide some contrived rationale as to why these women find Ernie appealing, he still must have... something.
- Kiss Me, I'm Virtual: In 101, Ernie can find a girl chained to a Death Trap while engaged in a training simulation. If the professors aren't there to watch, then after he disables the Death Trap, he can rape her.
- Kleptomaniac Hero: Ernie, big time. A spellbox on someone's table in their home? Grab it. A key item in someone's desk in their office? All yours. Breaking into the school president's office using a key you found on his unconscious daughter? Sure, why not!
- Lovable Nerd: Ernie and his Phart fraternity brothers.
- Loveable Sex Maniac: Ernie, of course, and Hillary.
- Magic Music: The moodhorn in 201, which can alter people's moods in a number of ways. Only one song is required for one puzzle, but almost every character in the game has scripted responses for each song in the book.
- Magical Girlfriend: Eve in 201, who Ernie creates via the Sorcerer's Appliance, with settings for whatever measurements and hair color the player chooses. Of course, the game's premise doesn't really work if Ernie has a full-time girlfriend, so Eve promptly takes off for seamstress school while Ernie is asleep that night.
- The Many Deaths of You: A good selection, which is typical for the genre. You can rend the fabric of space and time, get blasted to cinders by an atomic dragon, get humped to death by love-crazed amazons... you name it.
- May-December Romance: Otto and Hillary, to the point where Otto is over 100 while Hillary is still in her 20s. The 'romance' bit is a stretch, though, as Otto is too far gone in every regard to really enjoy his sexy young wife, and Hillary spends her days with any other man that can find her room.
- Mentor Occupational Hazard: Poor Otto dies of a heart attack in 201 after witnessing his wife carousing with an elevephant, a prank Ernie himself causes. His resurrection is the game's final challenge, however.
- Mermaid Problem: Ernie temporarily becomes a merman in 301 and, unsurprisingly, meets a very beautiful and eager mermaid. Merfolk sex isn't explicity described, but it's apparently 100 times better than human sex.
- Mooning: Ernie's final hazing task in 201 is to moon Queen Libido during a parade. Of course, the player can moon anyone else at any time he likes, to humorous effect.
- Mr. Exposition: Otto serves this role in the first two games, although there's not all that much plot to go over.
- Nerd Action Hero
- Nerd Glasses: Ernie has a classic set. These can be magicked in 301 to appear more stylish, if the player so chooses.
- New Powers as the Plot Demands: The Sorcerer's Appliance, which gains new abilities whenever you slap on a new attachment. And wouldn't you know it - after every successful mission in 201, you find a new attachment that just happens to have the power you'll need for the next task.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Ernie gets bitched out by his fraternity brothers for losing all of their luggage and valuables during their flying carpet trek to Fort Naughtytail, even though he had to push off the excess weight just to keep their third-rate carpet from crashing into the ocean.
- Nobody Poops: There's a spell for that. And for the reverse, too.
- No Guy Wants an Amazon: Subverted; Ernie likes Amazons just fine and would've probably had a great time on their island if they'd have given him time to rest and recuperate between encounters.
- No More for Me: One of the Tappa Kegga Brus decides this (And then changes his mind) after seeing the frat mascot (An elephant) shrink down until he can fit under a levitating manhole cover. Why he doesn't consider magic to be involved when he's at a school for sorcerers isn't mentioned (Maybe he's just that drunk).
- Now Do It Again Backwards: The only way to survive The Island Where Time Runs Backwards. Failing to do so results in a brutal Time Crash that ends the game.
- Out with a Bang: If you take too long trying to escape the Island of the Amazons, their constant jumping of your bones will literally kill you.
- Plot Coupon: The four magical seahorses in 301. Contrived, perhaps, but pretty adorable.
- Potty Failure: There's a spell that causes this. Embarassing, yes, but it also saves everyone's lives at the end of 101.
- RPG Elements: In the first two games, Ernie gains points from solving puzzles, and goes up a level every time a new point threshold is reached to allow you access to higher-ranking spells. The only way to gain levels in 301 is to do complex chores for some cranky wizards, making level-gaining another set of puzzles unto itself.
- Running Gag: Plenty, including Hillary's sexual proclivities and Otto's ignorance thereof, and Joey inevitably being buried in a mountain of poo during the finale.
- Sdrawkcab Name: Sitnalta, the lost city in 301.
- Shout-Out: The first game has the Restaurant at the End of the Ocean. Meretzky worked with Douglas Adams on The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy computer game.
- Solve the Soup Cans: Pops up here and there. The first game features an island where you have to restore 80 lost souls by figuring out their names by looking at the object into which they were transformed. (A hot dog is actually a man named Frank, and so on.) You get a crucial key for saving everyone, but there's no way of knowing that beforehand (Fortunately, if you take long enough, the game will start dropping hints about the names you haven't guessed yet). 301 features a somewhat confounding 'color maze', but it can at least be skipped with a fair bit of gold.
- Spell Book: Ernie's most prized possession, as he can't cast a thing unless he has the book in his hands. Any new spells he finds automatically transfer right onto the pages—unless you forgot to bring it, in which case, the spell flies off into space, and you get to look for the 'load save' button.
- STD Immunity: Sexually transmitted diseases don't exist in Peloria, although this isn't mentioned until 301, where the narrator is presumably answering some of the lingering questions, criticisms or both regarding the lack of safe sex in the series. The possibility of Ernie having fathered kids all over Peloria is never addressed, though.
- Stock Ness Monster: The Lok Pik Monster in 101, who blocks your passage to Fort Blackwand. It shows up again in an aquarium in 301 (after Ernie rendered it harmless) but manages to escape back into the ocean, good as new, when the aquarium is destroyed during the rioting event.
- This Loser Is You
- Wacky Fratboy Hijinx: Featured in all three games to varying degrees. Going to fraternity parties is essential in 101 to acquire a few items, and the entire plot of 201 is Ernie pledging Hu Delta Phart and being placed in a series of increasingly dangerous hazing rituals. The core plot of 301 features Ernie and the rest of Hu Delta Phart squaring off against Getta Loda Yu in a series of Spring Break-themed contests. Drunken carnage ensues.
- Wake Up, Go to School, Save the World
- Wizarding School: Sorcerer University, of course. The games mention some rival schools, but SU appears to be the elite school for spellcasting.
- World of Snark