Posted by: Ben | February 13, 2010

Man vs Genre: Telengard

The Facts

Telengard is firmly in the dungeon crawl genre, and in fact appears to be an adaptation of dnd, a mainframe RPG that predates even Rogue. This is the DOS version, obtained on a 5 1/4″ floppy from a man in the pub. It was written by Daniel Lawrence, and published by Avalon Hill in 1982.

[Actually the history of DND is pretty complicated in itself. In 1988, RO software released a shareware game for DOS by Bill Knight, called Dungeons of the Necromancer’s Domain. Note the initials. This was the sequel to their DND, released in 1984, the renaming occuring at the behest of TSR’s lawyers. One of this DND’s five dungeons is called Telengard. Programmer Daniel Lawrence is said to have been unhappy with this release, considering it tantamount to piracy. See, Lawrence was trying to sell Telengard at the time, a version of a game called DND that he’d written circa 1977 for the DEC System 10 computer (at Purdue University, Indiana), a game that was not wholly dissimilar to dnd, written by Gary Wisehunt and Ray Wood in 1974-5 on the PLATO system, a mainframe with terminals at numerous US universities at the time. Dirk Pellett, who joined Wisehunt and Wood on the development of dnd in 1976, claims that Lawrence’s DND is an “unauthorized copy”, while Lawrence claims that he was working alone and did not see the other dnd, which thanks to its academic penetration lies at the thick end of a great long family tree of roguelikes. Perhaps someone should have asked Dungeons & Dragons creators Dave Arneson and Gary Gygax their opinion on who was ripping off whom.]

The Cover

A cursory examination of the cover from a distance in a poorly lit computer shop at some point in the early eighties would surely misinterpret this image of a dragon in the “flasher” pose as something extremely vulgar, since the long-haired warrior blends into the background while his great blue glowing sword stands out rather more proudy. No wonder there was a moral panic about role playing games.

The Lore

“Nobody knows who built the great underground labyrinth called Telengard. Some say that the souls that perish there feed some unspeakable demon. Others that it is a testing ground for wizards and warriors.”

Character Building

This one looks complicated. It starts by rolling dice at random. There’s stats for strength, intelligence, wisdom (I still haven’t worked out the difference between those two), constitution, dexterity and charisma (for which I still haven’t worked out the use in a dungeon crawl either.) Wait until there’s one I’m happy with, which is going to be the one with as high a constitution as poss. I didn’t get time to write down what my characters stats are before it drops me into the dungeon…

The Game

Here comes a ghoul. It is garish pink and waves its arms insanely. I have no idea what I am supposed to do. I am dead. And yes, the speed on the emulator was turned down to nearly zero.

Total play time: 30 seconds
Verdict: It is very easy to die in this game. Next!

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