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Video Game / Conquests of Camelot

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Conquests of Camelot: The Search for the Grail is a 1989 Adventure Game produced by Christy Marx (of Jem fame) and Peter Ledger and distributed by Sierra On-Line. It produced one sequel, Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood.

You play as Arthur, King of Camelot, on a quest to find both the Holy Grail and three of his knights, who have gone missing: Sir Galahad, Sir Gawain, and Sir Lancelot. The gameplay is atypical of '80s Sierra, with many arcade elements aside from their regular puzzles.

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This game provides examples of:

  • Adaptation Expansion: Or, compilation with liberties, as the creator admits.
  • All Myths Are True: So you'd better offer some tithes at the altars of both Jesus and Mithras, then get looking for that "cup of Christ / vessel of the goddess", so you can fight the Muslim Saracen guardian in the Temple of Aphrodite. But not before visiting Glastonbury Tor to search a certain well. Which is owned by a trio of familiar-looking "old ones".
  • All There in the Manual: The Liber Ex Doctrina
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  • Ancient Tomb: The Catacombs, the final stretch of the game. Be wary of rats, ghouls, and literal dead ends.
  • Armor Is Useless: Downplayed, the many violent deaths you can potentially suffer all avoid hitting you directly in your armor (or at least hit you more than once). It's subverted at the very end of the game, where the thief stabs you in the back if you let him live, but your armor protects you. Also, you have to take the helmet the Saracen offers you before you fight him, otherwise he'll kill Arthur with one blow to the head.
    • It is also a liability in the ocean as you sail, particularly in deaths where you are thrown overboard and the weight of the armor drags you down. Perhaps Arthur should have been a nudie like Arthur?
  • Belly Dancer: Fatima, when you first meet her. It only adds to the whole temptation act she tries to pull off with you, making sure you want to kiss her and not doing anything else.
  • Berserk Button: A few of them for the Mad Monk, most notably asking him where the Grail is.
  • Bilingual Bonus: "Liber Ex Doctrina" can be translated as either "book derived from knowledge" or "free from doctrine".
  • Bittersweet Ending: If you play successfully, you manage to heal Camelot, but the last graphic is King Arthur sadly watching Lancelot and Gwenhyver talking in her rose garden as Merlin says: "but your heart may never be healed."
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  • Black Knight: As himself, and this time with a lance for the jousting sequence.
  • Boom, Headshot!: Refuse the helmet offered to you by the Saracen and right at the start of the duel, he will strike you in the head, instantly turning your noggin into meatsauce.
  • Boss Battle: The arcade sequences generally take this form, unusually for an Adventure Game. The most obvious examples are the Black Knight and the Saracen.
  • But Thou Must!: Do you HAVE to sail to Gaza? Nah. Go anywhere in the world you like. Just don't expect to make it there.
  • Chain of Deals: In Jerusalem, you have to buy, sell, trade, and give away various items to the people and merchants to advance the plot.
  • Circle of Standing Stones: The riddle stones.
  • Cool, Clear Water: The spring in the desert is poisoned. It looks fine, but your mule refuses to drink from it. If you drink from it anyway, Merlin insults you for not being as smart as your mule.
  • Cool Helmet: The Saracen provides one for Arthur, as shown on the game box. And Arthur had better accept it, or else...
  • Copy Protection: The Liber Ex Doctrina. Without it (or a substitute), you won't get past Fatima's puzzle. Or the Lady of the Lake's test.
  • Crossing the Desert: To get to Jerusalem.
  • Cryptic Background Reference: There are all sorts of details in the game that have no bearing whatsoever on the game, but are just there to add to the atmosphere. For instance, when Arthur is reaches a fountain in the desert, a woman takes fright at his presence and runs away. She's never seen again and is of no importance to the plot, but she was included anyway.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Occasionally Merlin. Fall to your death in a dry riverbed? Wadi shame.
  • Death of the Old Gods: Very much so. By the time Aphrodite turns up, she explicitly states that her time is over, and when the Grail is taken back to Camelot, the altar for Mithras disappears. Then again, at least one of the Old Gods is still alive in the sequel.
  • Defrosting Ice Queen: The Lady of the Lake. Arthur manages to get her help by giving her crystal heart back to her. It's also suggested that her moods rely on the weather, and when the icy lake melts in the spring, she's much more benevolent.
  • Driven to Suicide: The last way you can die in the game: Arthur falls on his sword if the thief gets away with the Grail.
  • Easter Egg: In the treasury room, type(case sensitive) HAM AND JAM AND SPAM A LOT.
  • Easy-Mode Mockery: You can adjust the difficulty of the Boss Battles, but you get fewer skill points for completing them on lower difficulties.
  • Everything Trying to Kill You: It IS Sierra, natch. Justified in Gaza as you are a foreigner there and the people there don't take too kindly if you make any transgressions.
  • Evil-Detecting Dog: The mule doesn't seem to like Jabir. You know, the guy who tries to murder and rob Arthur?
  • Fetch Quest: Welcome to Jerusalem.
  • Final Boss: The Saracen guarding the ruins of Aphrodite's temple.
  • Fisher King: In a sense. It's implied that Arthur's broken heart at the knowledge that Lancelot and Gwynhyver are in love is the cause of the pestilence that destroys Camelot.
    • In the end the Grail restores the kingdom to healthy prosperity, but Arthur is forced to continue suffering.
  • Flower Motifs: An entire challenge is based on the Language of the Flowers. Gwynhyver's rose is also an important reoccurring symbol.
  • Forbidden Zone: The Forest Perilous.
  • Genre Shift: The many arcade scenes were rather unusual for a Sierra game.
  • Gold–Silver–Copper Standard: Both Britain and the Middle East have them. In Britain, 5 copper are worth one silver, and 5 silver are worth one gold. In the Middle East, 4 fals are worth one dirham, and 4 dirham are worth one dinar.
  • Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: On the one hand, Lancelot and Gwenhyver's love affair places a curse of pestilence over the Kingdom of Camelot (though it's implied that they don't actually have an affair, just that Arthur knows Gwen's love for Lancelot means she doesn't love him alone). On the other hand, one of the tasks that Arthur must complete is to help a man retrieve his treasured veil so that his wife doesn't find out that he's been cheating with a prostitute. Because the man at least seems honestly repentant, forgiving him is a virtuous act on Arthur's part and thus in keeping with the ideals of his quest.
  • Guide Dang It!: The riddle stones. How exactly is an iceberg lighter than what it's made of? Simple: ice is lighter than water. In addition, the Lady of the Lake's puzzle makes no sense to anyone not familiar with floriography, but that happens to be described in the manual. And much later, Fatima's puzzle relies on the player having asked another (non-revisitable) character about a particular topic. At least the stones' riddles can be randomized by reentering the screen, and the other two can potentially be solved by trial and error or simply brute forced with enough reloading.
  • Has a Type: If you type Kiss Merlin in his room, he'll say he doesn't like men with beards.
  • Have a Nice Death: Sierra game, remember? You will often get a snarky comment by Merlin if you die.
  • Helmets Are Hardly Heroic: Defied in the duel against the Saracen. Refuse the helmet he offers and your head is instant meatsauce the second the dual begins.
  • Heroic Mime: Arthur never speaks.
  • Hollywood Mirage: Whilst in the desert, Arthur sees puddles of water that disappear as he gets near. More seriously, he is also haunted by images of Lancelot and Gwenhyver embracing each other.
  • Human Popsicle: The Lady of the Lake keeps Lancelot frozen in a large ice pillar. Naturally he's just fine once he gets out.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Subverted and Defied: Arthur is unavoidably bitten by a poisonous rat in the same room where Galahad is found dying from the same poison, and only has a single dose of the antidote. To survive, Arthur must cure Galahad and then hurry to find the Grail and be magically cured before succumbing himself.
  • In the Back: A thief can try to do this to Arthur when he spares his life for stealing the Grail, but his armor protects him.
  • Karmic Death: After a thief steals the Holy Grail right when you find it, you're prompted to chase him down. When you catch up to him, he begs for his life. Spare him, and he'll stab you in the back when you walk away. Your chain mail will save you from his audacious attempt on your life and the Holy Grail zaps the poor sap into a pile of bones.
  • Last Lousy Point: In three different varieties (Skill, Wisdom, and Soul). Soul is easy enough to max out just by doing every good deed you can think of, but Wisdom requires you to ask some pretty esoteric questions in unusual areas; and on top of Skill being tied to your difficulty level (see Easy Mode Mockery above), a bug makes it impossible to max out.
  • Made of Plasticine: Arthur, who can easily be turned into a pile of meatsauce by many enemies. Some of the human enemies he does kill (e.g. the false guide near Gaza) with even a single swing of his sword will also show very gory deaths.
  • Missing Secret: The game appears to have a lot of places you can try to go to but can never quite reach. The best example is the boat: go anywhere except Gaza and it will look like you will make it, but the voyage will fail and you will die at the last second by a storm, or Viking raids, or pirates intercepting your ship, or the like. In short, there is no way to reach those lands.
  • Mook Chivalry: The wild boars in the Forest Perilous charge at you one at a time. Averted by the four guards outside of Jerusalem, who will all rush in and chop you to bits at the same time if you even try to fight them.
  • Moral Dissonance: Arthur needs to find the Grail because of the pestilence caused by his broken heart (in a type of Fisher King scenario) at the knowledge that Gwenhyver is in love with Lancelot. Once in Palestine, Arthur must help an adulterous man cover his tracks by retrieving a veil from a prostitute so that his wife won't suspect that he's been unfaithful to her. This is part of a mandatory sidequest, and Arthur's forgiveness of the man is in keeping with the ideals of virtue that the whole quest for the Grail is about.
    • The dissonance is less serious in that, while the man has committed adultery, he is repentant and vows to remain faithful forevermore. In addition, while Lancelot and Gwenhyver are in love with each other, their love has not resulted in adultery. Rather, Arthur's realization that his wife loves another more than she loves him is what breaks him; she is still faithful to him.
  • Morton's Fork: The very end of the game when Arthur catches the EVIL EVIL EVIL EVIL thief. You can kill the thief or show him mercy. Kill the thief, he is chopped up and dies. Show him mercy, and the EVIL EVIL EVIL EVIL thief will attempt to assassinate you. He fails and the Grail will judge the thief instead, and burn him to ash. Either way, the monster of a thief is dead.
  • No Body Left Behind: The servants of the Old Ones (i.e. the Black Knight and the Mad Monk) disappear when Arthur kills them, and Aphrodite turns the Saracen's body into a dove when Arthur kills him.
  • Non Sequitur: You kill the mad monk. Naturally, he shouts, "In Vino Veritas!"
  • Off with His Head!: Several examples in the Middle East.
    • Returning to Gaza where the mukhtar's men are waiting for Arthur will result in Arthur's severed head tossed back to where he was moments ago.
    • If Arthur draws his sword against the Saracen without first putting on the helmet, the Saracen will cut off his head in one hit.
    • If either Arthur or the Saracen wins the fight with a high attack, the killing blow will result in a beheading.
  • Only Smart People May Pass: The riddle stones, the statue of Aphrodite's pop quiz on Greek Mythology, and the Lady of the Lake's questions on floriography (the last two double as Copy Protection since the answers can be found in the manual, although these days the internet is a suitable substitute).
    • Basically anything that isn't an arcade sequence is a puzzle that requires you to figure out either where to find the information that you need or how to use the information that you already have. For those who take meticulous notes and figure out how to use them, there aren't very many real Guide Dang It! moments.
  • The Peeping Tom: While exploring Jerusalem, a certain normally-darkened window will occasionally have a young woman inside. Moving closer to investigate will reveal that she is taking a bath, and Merlin quickly suggests that Arthur avert his eyes. You should probably listen.
  • Permanently Missable Content: There are quite a few things you need to get before passing each of the following points of no return. Most notably, you will need to get the gold, silver, and copper from the treasury, the rose from the garden, and the lodestone from Merlin's room before leaving Camelot, because leaving Camelot is a point of no return.
  • Point of No Return: Exiting Camelot, sailing to Gaza, entering Jerusalem, and entering the Catacombs. Since this is Sierra, each one makes it possible to permanently miss something important.
  • Rule of Cool: You won't find this exact account of King Arthur finding the Holy Grail. So what?
  • Rule of Three: Three knights to rescue: Gawaine, Lancelot and Galahad.
  • Secret Test of Character: The Game! All of your actions have multiple solutions, but all solutions are not equal. The best solutions specifically favor unnecessary generosity, forgiveness, and selflessness. In many cases, your obstacles will offer an easy way or a hard way, and it is never acceptable to take the offered easy way out.
  • Sex Equals Death: Fatima offers herself to Arthur, but will strangle him with her veil if he succumbs. It's a Secret Test of Character, after all.
  • Shout-Out: The first time Gwenhyver mentions the Lady of the Lake, she immediately adds "the watery tart". There is also an Easter Egg in the treasury if you type "ham and jam and spam a lot".
    • The Catacombs has a being in a stone coffin that raises only its hand and calls itself "The Thing".
  • Solve the Soup Cans: When in Jerusalem, you have to make the proper Chain of Deals with the townsfolk to proceed.
  • Something About a Rose: Gwynhyver gives Arthur a rose from her garden before he leaves for his quest; one that gets him points with the Lady of the Lake.
  • Straight Gay: Heavily implied by typing certain commands and his description of Fatima that Merlin is gay.
  • Taken for Granite: The hag does this to you if you fail to turn her back into Elaine. Merlin's dialogue afterwards is the current page quote for this trope.
  • Text Parser: Another standard Sierra trope.
  • Timed Mission: From the moment you (inevitably) get bitten by a poisonous rat, the rest of the game is basically this: You have to give the elixir to Galahad, give the golden apple to the statue of Aphrodite, pass her test, follow her directions out of the catacombs, fight and defeat the Saracen, and follow her directions again to find the Grail before you succumb to the rat's poison yourself.
  • Uncoffee: Al-Sirat will offer King Arthur a cup of "qahwah," whose description matches coffee perfectly.
  • Unwinnable by Design: You don't HAVE to save Gawain, Lancelot, or Galahad. Only if you don't want to, you know, vaporize at the end of the game.
    • Just try leaving Camelot without the rose. Or gold, silver, and copper coins. Or the lodestone. Or information about where your knights are.
    • Just try saving your knights in the wrong order. Mithras gave you those visions in that order for a very good reason.
    • You don't have to turn the hag back into Elaine in order to progress. You just have to give her all your silver coins, and she'll let you pass. But you need at least 5 silver coins to appease the old gods so you can get the key to the well that allows you to escape Glastonbury Tor, so you'll just end up trapped later.
    • You can get to the Lady of the Lake's palace with either the rose, or the Heart of Ice. If you use the rose, it disappears for the rest of the game. If you try to return without the Heart of Ice after using the rose...well, you won't return.
    • You can get through the entire game being relatively selfish, which actually does give you an advantage (fewer Copy Protection challenges and arcade sequences, for example). However, you won't be able to finish the game: at the very end of the ordeal the Grail kills you for being unworthy. You are warned about this at the beginning of the game, though, and the choices that are required to win the game are generally obvious in their intent if not necessarily their execution. You may not know that you need to specifically put Gawaine on your horse to get him to safety, but you should know better than to leave him there, for example.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: When Arthur throws the mirror to Mari and she leans out the window to catch it, her dress slips down for a single frame to reveal EGA nipples.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: After transforming the hag back into Elaine, she rushes away, eager to find her love. Her love is three screens back, long dead and rotted into a skeleton. Even if you return, there's no sign of Elaine and nothing to indicate where she went or how she's doing.
    • There's magic afoot: her love is long since dead, but the mark of her love is still in perfect condition. She herself is old and decrepit as the hag, but immediately reverts back to her young beautiful self when she gets what she wants. She's also never seen again. The implication is that she rushes off to join him in death, which has either happy implications or terrible ones.
  • What the Hell, Hero?: Courtesy of Merlin. Usually related to your death. Or if you do something especially vile, like try to kill the friendly hunter in Forest Perilous. Or if Arthur lets one of his knights die.
  • Worthy Opponent: The Black Knight and the Saracen.
  • The Vamp:
  • Villains Want Mercy: The thief, who begs for mercy after failing to assassinate Arthur in the end. Mercy is denied as the Grail judges him and burns him into ash.


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