Video Game / The Bard's Tale
"A quest for coin and cleavage."

Take your standard Heroic Fantasy, except replace that hero with an Anti-Hero Jerkass, "a sardonic and opportunistic musician and adventurer, driven by carnal rather than noble pursuits". The Bard (who is never identified by a specific name) is not interested in saving the world, his humble motivations being strictly "coin and cleavage". Then have his quest narrated by a mocking, biased man who cannot stand him.

The Bard, after getting burned by and subsequently slaying a giant, fire-breathing rat, ends up being recruited by an old man to help free a princess named Caleigh. As a result of this, the Bard finds himself being attacked by an assortment of fanatics from a Druid-like cult, sent to dispatch him by a being called Fionnaoch. On the way to complete his quest, the not so valiant anti-hero will have to overcome the truly terrifying challenges of three monstrous guardians, break-dancing corpses, spontaneously melodious goblins and a giant, fire-breathing rat.

Has nothing to do with the games of The Bard's Tale Trilogy (the first game being titled The Bard's Tale [1985]), although it does have a few shout outs to it (and some editions include the earlier games as an extra). To be fair though, this game was supposed to be a remake of the original game, but inXile Entertainment didn't have the rights to the original game as Electronic Arts held the rights to the series. The game was developed by inXile Entertainment, who are now also working on The Bard's Tale IV, a true sequel to the original trilogy.

The 2004 game provides examples of:

  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: In the Starter Inn, being nice to the Innkeeper would get you nothing. Berating her for the huge rat in the basement actually gets the Bard some nookie.
  • All Men Are Perverts: How did Caleigh get the bard to go on the quest when lures of money and power weren't enough? She offered sex. Lots and lots of sex.
  • Aluminum Christmas Trees: The Nuckelavee isn't a monster made up for the game but an actual mythological creature from the Orkney Islands' folklore.
  • Anti-Hero: Deconstructed in the Evil ending. The Bard has no particular stake in saving the world, so siding with Caleigh really is the best choice for him. Though the same could be said for the neutral ending, wherein the Bard leaves and gets drunk with some zombies. As it turns out, The Bard doesn't make to be any sort of hero or villain at all, and the undead apparently make great bar buddies (and definitely good dancers, too).
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: The consequences of the Nuckelavee's return, according to "The Tale of the Nuckelavee" song:
    The village is burned and the taverns are missed and the beer is all gone and the elders are pissed.
  • Back from the Dead: If you befriend him early enough, the dog is eventually killed but then comes back as a zombie. If you didn't, the one coming back is The Nuckelavee.
  • Being Good Sucks: The good guys don't quite get the fact that the Bard likes to be paid, and doing the right thing doesn't leave him with anything gained for the adventure.
  • Blatant Lies: The Narrator loves to engage in these, to the chagrin of The Bard.
  • Bottomless Magazines: No limit to those arrows!
  • Bribing Your Way to Victory: At least in the Android version of the game. You have the options of buying packs of items, stat points, talents and in game currency with real currency if you want to. Its all stuff you can acquire in game and its single-player so you're just paying to speed up the game.
  • Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys: Jacques and Jean, a pair of French guys, who give you the run around after offering a tune, will accept your challenge to a fight, then surrender as soon as you draw your weapons.
  • Chosen One: Parodied in various ways.
    • The Chosen Wannabe: Throughout your quest, you will encounter many other chosen ones, most of whom are either dead or arrested.
    • The Chosen Zero: Not only is the Bard an unlikely hero (and has this pointed out to him), there are many other "Chosen Ones" (people who think the are, anyway note ) who end up dead or worse. And after you come across them, some trow come out and sing about it!
    • The Chosen Many: At one point you'll even encounter a couple dozen of them. They've all been locked up so they don't hurt themselves.
    • The Unchosen One: Guess who manages to make his way past the challenges and manages to get a chance to confront the Big Bad?
  • Continuity Nod: In a conversation early in the game the Bard proclaims that he's had enough adventures, involving, among other things, cities locked in eternal winter. This was the plot of the original 1985 Bard's Tale.
  • Cow Tipping: There are a number of cows in Houton that the Bard can push over and if you tip enough of them, a very angry cow will attack him.
  • Crate Expectations: Parodied. When the bard smashes a barrel early in the game, the barrel maker comes out and chastises him for smashing his barrels. He then offers a deal: smash all other barrels the Bard sees so that the barrel-maker can sell more barrels. Also, the game guide lists that the Bard's previous profession was as an assistant to the barrel maker, however he was fired for producing inferior barrels which "... shattered with a mere whack of a sword." And his mentor chased him out of town for such shoddy work, saying that "A key won't even be safe in these things."
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: The Bard is a selfish and sexist jerk more interesting into getting "coins and cleavages" than performing heroic deeds, but that doesn't mean he is not a very competent fighter when he has to.
  • The Dead Can Dance: In a joke cutscene two groups of zombies are seen having a dance off to the Bard's confusion. This reappears in the Neutral ending where the zombies are seen partying in a bar with the Bard.
  • Deadpan Snarker:
    • The Bard, whenever you go with the snarky option in conversations.
    • The Narrator gets in a few zings.
  • Determinator: In the town of Houton, there is an old man who will demand an apology from you if you bump into him. If you refuse, he'll just keep insisting, even following you into a dungeon full of zombies to do so. Refuse enough times and he'll swear to chase you all the way into hell until you say you're sorry.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: The Rogue will use this, although it won't stop the bad guys from attacking, it will just stop them from attacking you. Also, the Bard is so wrapped up in his desire to sleep with Caleigh that he never stops to think about the whole thing.
  • Dual Wielding: The Bard can learn to dual wield a sword with a dirk in the off-hand.
  • Evil Pays Better: Sometimes you're better off being mean. Also, the evil ending has what could be considered the happiest ending for The Bard.
  • Evil Tower of Ominousness: The boss towers.
  • Follow the Bouncing Ball: Every single Crowd Song in the game.
  • Funny Foreigner: Anybody who doesn't speak with an English accent.
  • Gameplay and Story Segregation: You can summon Caleigh to heal you even if you choose to fight against her in the final battle. If you summon the healing spell during said battle, she appears without any transformation.
    • Possible explanation: The being summoned isn't actually Caleigh, but rather, Caleigh just took on her form because she thought it would be great for getting horny idiots to buy into her plight.
  • Genre Savvy:
    • The Bard, mostly from his own past experiences (if you take the word of a self-serving liar and crook like him, anyway).
    • The Narrator acts like he has never seen a fantasy game before, given his shock at some standard tropes.
  • Glass Cannon: The Vorpal Rat. Highest damaging summon, but it only has 11 hit points and no armor. The attack, easily over 110 points, enough to smash all but the most hardy mooks.
  • Good Is Not Nice: Finnioch is willing to kill whoever it takes to ensure Caleigh remains sealed.
  • Groin Attack: If you're snarky to one of the women in Finnstown, The Bard will get a knee to the jewels for it, while the Narrator laughs.
  • Guide Dang It!: Almost all the tokens are Missable, and you never know which conversation option will yield the plot.
  • He Knows about Timed Hits: Parodied once again. The Bard thinks the guy giving the tutorial is just plain crazy, but plays along, anyway.
    Old Man: Ye've already proven that ye know how to move around and attack with your weapon. Let's talk a wee bit about jumping.
    The Bard: 'Course I know how to walk around! And jumping? Heh, I know how to jump!
    Old Man: Press the Triangle Button.
    The Bard: Wha'? What're you on about? What button? You're completely insane, aren't you? Y'know, I ran into this other guy once; he kept talking about mice I couldn't see!
  • Here We Go Again: The Good Ending concludes with the Bard summoning the Mouse to scare a barmaid, which is how the whole story started.
  • His Name Really Is "Barkeep": Yes, 'The Bard' literally is his name.
  • Howling to the Night: Averted, as the wolves howl to call for more wolves, not to tell time or set the mood.
  • How We Got Here: The game starts outside Fionnach's tower and goes on to a flashback after the druids rush at The Bard's party of summons. And when you get to that point in the game, the narrator tries to tell the tale from the beginning, again. The Bard will have none of it.
  • Impossible Item Drop: The Lemony Narrator expresses incredulity in the early game when a wolf drops a sword. He says he'll skip all such passages from now on, and the bard complains that its his primary source of income.
  • In-Name-Only: Has no relation to the original Bard's Tale series aside from a few Shout Outs and (in some versions) including them as extras.
  • Infinity +1 Sword: The Ego Sword, acquired by rescuing some firbolgs trapped behind a cave-in. It's not the most damaging weapon in the game, but you can summon creatures without unequipping it to draw your instrument, and it's got an oddly long reach.
  • Insane Proprietor: Crazy Thorvald found in the zombie viking-infested ruins is as crazy as his name says.
  • Jerkass Victim: People like to mess with the Bard, sending him on goose chases. But he's enough of a Jerkass that he has it coming.
  • Last-Second Ending Choice: Choose between the demon princess, her druid captor, and yourself.
  • Leaking Can of Evil: As the game progresses he seal containing the demon Caleigh weakens, resulting in zombies overrunning much of the land.
  • Lemony Narrator: Portrayed by Tony Jay, the Narrator would much rather be reading a traditional fairy tale than dealing with this ass of a protagonist. They frequently get into arguments and the Narrator even cuts all the parts regarding animals dropping gold and weapons.
    Narrator: Thus concludes the Bard's Tale. Finally the end... I thought I'd never be rid of him. Never ask me to read this half-wit's story again, please!
  • Lethal Lava Land: Parodied with the Obligatory Lava Level.
  • Kick the Dog: Or stomp on it with a giant flying pterodactyl-like thing.
  • Kill It with Fire: Higher-level bows shoot fire arrows. You also get to summon a fire elemental and a firey exploding triceratops skeleton.
  • Kleptomaniac Hero: He's not stealing, he's performing a public service and cleaning the chests out so they won't be cluttered.
  • Magic Pants: Caleigh's transformation into her real form shreds her dress but leaves her private bits covered. Fancy that.
  • Male Gaze: The first scene after the introduction shows just the innkeeper's chest, and eventually works up to her face.
  • Money Spider: Parodied. After one straight execution of this trope happens, the narrator says that he'll skip all such passages in the future. The Bard complains, since it was a major source of income.
  • Multiple Endings: In the end of the game, you could either help Caleigh and fight Fionnaoch which lets the world be engulfed in evil while the Bard and demon queen Caleigh live Happily Ever After, help Fionnaoch and fight Caleigh which returns the world to normal and the Bard goes back to looking for coin and cleavage again or Take a Third Option and leave them to their squabbles and go party with the undead.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Finnstown. You learn what happened as a Noodle Incident with Horny Vikings. Also, the Nuckelavee. Really, the Bard's whole career is built on these, and a good portion of the sidequests involve either making new mistakes or fixing ones you made previously.
  • Nightmare Fetishist: The Bard. He gets oddly aroused by Caleigh's real form.
    "Is it just me, or is she still hot?"
  • No Fourth Wall: The Bard frequently argues with the Narrator (who responds in kind), much to the confusion of anyone nearby.
  • Ode to Intoxication: "Beer, Beer, Beer".
  • One Steve Limit: Averted, you'll find five Bodbs. They're all siblings.
  • Permanently Missable Content: If you run away from a village that ambushes you, all you get is a snarky comment about your reputation preceding you and it is wiped from the map. This means you miss out on the whole viking segment, and all the treasure and new summons that go with it.
  • Pet the Dog: The protagonist is an Anti-Hero Jerk Ass more interested in, as the game states, "coin and cleavage" than saving the world. He is a compulsive liar and cheat, swindling his way through life and seducing his way through women. However, not only does he pick up a dog companion early in the game, but he sheds a genuine tear and vows revenge when the dog is killed by a monstrous minion of the apparent Big Bad.
  • The Power of Rock: The Shadow Axe is an axe, that has strings tightened on it that enables it to sound like an electric guitar when you summon someone.
  • Precision F-Strike: The Bard lets one loose after being told that some creature that died on his journey wants to see him.
  • Reverse Grip: The dirk in the off-hand when dual-wielding.
  • Reverse Shrapnel: Lugh's artifact power, the "Aura of War."
  • Rule of Funny: The purpose of the snarky option's existence (sometimes being nice gives you better results, and sometimes being snarky does).
  • Running Gag: Each time the Bard discovers the fate of a "chosen one" (usually, the discovery of a corpse, through the dozens of chosen ones held in Dounby's jail for their own protection also count), a trio of Throws appear and sing about the guy's demise.
  • Scenery Porn: It's based on the Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance engine and looks quite nice for its time.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here!: In the Neutral Ending, the Bard sides with neither Caleigh or the Druids but flees the tower, then go partying with a group of undead.
  • Sealed Evil in a Can:
    • Caleigh is revealed to be a hideous demon bound long ago by the Druids. All of the chaos seen throughout the game is due to her can weakening.
    • The Nuckelavee was sealed beneath a ring of standing stone until the Bard kills a horse there, the only way to release it.
  • Secret Level: Four extra dungeons can be unlocked by finding a Trow randomly appearing on the world map and buying his very expensive maps. Each dungeon contains a Token which will permanently improve your stats and tons of loot.
  • Seen It All: The Bard. By the time you get to the last tower, he gets pretty tired of hearing idle threats. Also if you skip a scene, you'll sometimes hear the Bard give a dismissive "Next" or "Heard it already".
  • Shield Bash
  • Shmuck Bait: A chest in the middle of nowhere is obviously a trap, but the Bard goes "oh, what the hell" and loots it anyway. The dialogue with the two men from Finnstown also makes it quite clear that the town did not bake you a cake. The most literal example, however, would be princess Caleigh herself, and her ready acceptance to give you whatever you want, including money which she shouldn't realistically have, and all the sex you want.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Side Quest: Mostly of the, "Let's poke around in this old ruin full of monsters and inexplicably well-maintained traps" variety.
  • Strange-Syntax Speaker: Fnarf had a tendency to speak with alliteration.
    The Bard: "I've had just about enough of these atrocious alliterative announcements... Now I'm doing it!"
  • Summon Magic: A big part of gameplay. Several of the summon spells you get are plot-important.
    • First, you can summon various creatures and warriors to back you up in battle, spending energy out of your Mana Meter. They stay with you until they're killed or banished.
    • Second, you can use magical artifacts in combination with a limited supply of adderstones. These artifacts call Caleigh or one of three tower bosses to cause some instant or temporary effect on the field.
  • Stripperific: The first female summon has an armour or sorts, which of course includes very low neckline, Zettai Ryouiki and Bare Your Midriff. Then you get another female summon, who just has a brown bikini and high-heeled boots. And the outfit on the flighty barmaid McRary is hilariously ridiculous, especially the shoes. It all fits the world, though.
  • Take a Third Option: After being offered two choices for every action throughout the game, you are offered a third at the very end, and you have good reason to take it.
  • Theme Naming: Many of the names and characters are influenced by Celtic mythology and the stories of the Orkney Islands.
  • Up to Eleven: The sound options can be set to 11.
  • Vendor Trash: All sorts of it, among it Wanted Posters of the Bard himself, but thankfully, it's all exchanged for silver as soon as it's acquired.
  • "The Villain Sucks" Song: The Tale of the Nukleavee and Here's To The Bard (Viking remix). Both about the Bard screwing stuff up. Every song but the one about beer, really.
  • Video Game Cruelty Potential: Oh, plenty—
    • Watching the "Chosen Ones" (a small army of teenagers) get killed in stupid and hilarious ways is one of several running gags.
    • You can also kill chickens and push over cows in Houton. This serves no purpose (the chickens give you minimal experience, and only occasionally drop a nugget worth 1 piece of silver, and the cows getting tipped is only there for poops and giggles) and will get a very angry cow and chicken come after you if you do it enough times.
    • Count the number of times that you can arbitrarily swindle, abuse, or threaten people to get money or goods. Don't make a drinking game of it though; you'll make yourself very sick.
  • Violent Glaswegian: Averted. You'll run into a guy with a very thick Scottish accent, loves to go to Pubs, but doesn't ever once engage in an act of violence.
  • Wandering Minstrel: The Bard makes his living playing at bars and hustling the barmaids for free drinks and sex.
  • We Can Rule Together: The Evil Ending sees the Bard team up with Caleigh, though it's less ruling and more the sex that appeals to him.
  • Weak Sauce Weakness: The undead cows can be killed in one hit if attacked from the side. This is due to all the times The Bard tipped them over.
  • With Lyrics: The Vikings add lyrics to the game's main theme and use it as a drinking song.
  • Zombie Apocalypse: Happens in some of the towns. You cause them all through various blundering means.

Alternative Title(s): The Bards Tale