Moria (video game)

Last updated
The Dungeons of Moria
Screenshot from a Moria-like game
  • Robert Alan Koeneke
  • Jimmey Wayne Todd Jr.
  • James E. Wilson
Initial release25 March 1983 (0.1)
Stable release
5.6 / 13 October 2008;10 years ago (2008-10-13) [1]
Operating system Cross-platform
Available inEnglish
Type Roguelike
License GNU General Public License v2

The Dungeons of Moria, or just Moria, is a roguelike computer game inspired by J. R. R. Tolkien's novel The Lord of the Rings . The game's objective is to kill a Balrog, presumably Durin's Bane, deep within the Mines of Moria. A later port of Moria called Umoria (UNIX Moria) inspired the Angband roguelike game. This game influenced the preliminary design of Blizzard Entertainment's Diablo . [2]

Roguelike subgenre of role-playing video games

Roguelike is a subgenre of role-playing video game characterized by a dungeon crawl through procedurally generated levels, turn-based gameplay, tile-based graphics, and permanent death of the player character. Most roguelikes are based on a high fantasy narrative, reflecting their influence from tabletop role playing games such as Dungeons & Dragons.

A PC game, also known as a computer game or personal computer game, is a video game played on a personal computer rather than a dedicated video game console or arcade machine. Its defining characteristics include: more diverse and user-determined gaming hardware and software; and generally greater capacity in input, processing, and video output. The uncoordinated nature of the PC game market, and now its lack of physical media, make precisely assessing its size difficult.

J. R. R. Tolkien British philologist and author, creator of classic fantasy works

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, was an English writer, poet, philologist, and academic, who is best known as the author of the classic high fantasy works The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, and The Silmarillion.



Family tree of Rogue-like games: Inspiration for Moria goes back to Rogue. Roguetree2.svg
Family tree of Rogue-like games: Inspiration for Moria goes back to Rogue.

The original version was started at the University of Oklahoma by Robert Alan Koeneke after he became hooked on Rogue but could not run it on the VAX-11/780 minicomputer to which he had access. [4]

University of Oklahoma public research university in Norman, Oklahoma, United States

The University of Oklahoma (OU) is a public research university in Norman, Oklahoma. Founded in 1890, it had existed in Oklahoma Territory near Indian Territory for 17 years before the two became the state of Oklahoma. In Fall 2018 the university had 31,702 students enrolled, most at its main campus in Norman. Employing nearly 3,000 faculty members, the school offers 152 baccalaureate programs, 160 master's programs, 75 doctorate programs, and 20 majors at the first professional level. David Boren, a former U.S. Senator and Oklahoma Governor, served as the university's president from 1994 to 2018. James L. Gallogly succeeded Boren on July 1, 2018.

<i>Rogue</i> (video game) 1980 video game

Rogue is a dungeon crawling video game by Michael Toy and Glenn Wichman and later contributions by Ken Arnold. Rogue was originally developed around 1980 for Unix-based mainframe systems as a freely-distributed executable. It was later included in the official Berkeley Software Distribution 4.2 operating system (4.2BSD). Commercial ports of the game for a range of personal computers were made by Toy, Wichman, and Jon Lane under the company A.I. Design and financially supported by the Epyx software publishers. Additional ports to modern systems have been made since by other parties using the game's now-open source code.


The VAX-11 is a discontinued family of minicomputers developed and manufactured by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) using processors implementing the VAX instruction set architecture (ISA), succeeding the PDP-11. The VAX-11/780 is the first VAX computer.

Koeneke started developing Moria in 1981 [5] using the VMS BASIC programming language, but then rewrote it in VMS Pascal during the summer of 1983. [5] Jimmey Wayne Todd Jr. joined Koeneke on the continued development of the game from 1984. [4] In 1985 the source code was widely distributed under a license that permitted sharing and modification but not commercial use.

HP BASIC for OpenVMS is the latest name for a dialect of the BASIC programming language created by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) and now owned by Hewlett-Packard Enterprise (HPE). It was originally developed in the 1970s for the RSTS-11 operating system on the PDP-11 minicomputer. It was later ported to OpenVMS, first on VAX, then Alpha, and most recently Integrity.

OpenVMS computer operating system

OpenVMS is a closed-source, proprietary computer operating system for use in general-purpose computing. It is the successor to the VMS Operating System, that was produced by Digital Equipment Corporation, and first released in 1977 for its series of VAX-11 minicomputers. The 11/780 was introduced at DEC's Oct. 25, 1977 annual shareholder's meeting. In the 1990s, it was used for the successor series of DEC Alpha systems. OpenVMS also runs on the HP Itanium-based families of computers. As of 2019, a port to the x86-64 architecture is underway.

Pascal is an imperative and procedural programming language, which Niklaus Wirth designed in 1968–69 and published in 1970, as a small, efficient language intended to encourage good programming practices using structured programming and data structuring. It is named in honor of the French mathematician, philosopher and physicist Blaise Pascal.

The last VMS version was Moria 4.8, released in November 1986.

James E. Wilson continued development of the game in 1987 with Umoria, [6] a modified version written in the C programming language for UNIX and MS-DOS, and which was later ported to many other computer systems including the Amiga, Ataris ST and Apple IIGS.

C (programming language) general-purpose programming language

C is a general-purpose, imperative computer programming language, supporting structured programming, lexical variable scope and recursion, while a static type system prevents many unintended operations. By design, C provides constructs that map efficiently to typical machine instructions, and it has therefore found lasting use in applications that were previously coded in assembly language. Such applications include operating systems, as well as various application software for computers ranging from supercomputers to embedded systems.

Unix family of computer operating systems that derive from the original AT&T Unix

Unix is a family of multitasking, multiuser computer operating systems that derive from the original AT&T Unix, development starting in the 1970s at the Bell Labs research center by Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, and others.

MS-DOS Discontinued computer operating system

MS-DOS is an operating system for x86-based personal computers mostly developed by Microsoft. Collectively, MS-DOS, its rebranding as IBM PC DOS, and some operating systems attempting to be compatible with MS-DOS, are sometimes referred to as "DOS". MS-DOS was the main operating system for IBM PC compatible personal computers during the 1980s and the early 1990s, when it was gradually superseded by operating systems offering a graphical user interface (GUI), in various generations of the graphical Microsoft Windows operating system.

In 2008, through the work of the free-moria project [7] [3] , Umoria was relicensed under the GNU General Public License. Jimmey Wayne Todd Jr., a major contributor to VMS Moria, is not listed as consenting to the relicense.

Software relicensing is applied in open-source software development when software licenses of software modules are incompatible and are required to be compatible for a greater combined work. Licenses applied to software as copyrightable works, in source code as binary form, can contain contradictory clauses. This requirements can make it impossible to combine source code or content of several software works to create a new combined one.

GNU General Public License set of free software licenses

The GNU General Public License is a widely-used free software license, which guarantees end users the freedom to run, study, share and modify the software. The license was originally written by Richard Stallman of the Free Software Foundation (FSF) for the GNU Project, and grants the recipients of a computer program the rights of the Free Software Definition. The GPL is a copyleft license, which means that derivative work can only be distributed under the same license terms. This is in distinction to permissive free software licenses, of which the BSD licenses and the MIT License are widely-used examples. GPL was the first copyleft license for general use.

The current maintainer of Moria is David Grabiner.


Moria begins with creation of a character. The player first chooses a "race" from the following: Human, Half-Elf, Elf, Halfling, Gnome, Dwarf, Half-Orc, Half-Troll. Racial selection determines base statistics and class availability. One then selects the character's "class" from the following: Warrior, Mage, Priest, Rogue, Ranger, Paladin. Class further determines statistics, as well as the abilities acquired during gameplay. Mages, Rangers, and Rogues can learn magic; Priests and Paladins can learn prayers. Warriors possess no additional abilities.

Statistic (role-playing games) piece of data representing a particular aspect of a fictional character

A statistic in role-playing games is a piece of data that represents a particular aspect of a fictional character. That piece of data is usually a (unitless) integer or, in some cases, a set of dice.

In role-playing games (RPG), a character class is a job or profession commonly used to differentiate the abilities of different game characters. A character class aggregates several abilities and aptitudes, and may also detail aspects of background and social standing, or impose behavior restrictions. Classes may be considered to represent archetypes, or specific careers. RPG systems that employ character classes often subdivide them into levels of accomplishment, to be attained by players during the course of the game. It is common for a character to remain in the same class for its lifetime; although some games allow characters to change class, or attain multiple classes. Some systems eschew the use of classes and levels entirely; others hybridise them with skill-based systems or emulate them with character templates.

The player begins the game with a limited number of items on a town level of six shops: (1) a General Store, (2) an Armory, (3) a Weaponsmith, (4) a Temple, (5) an Alchemy shop, and (6) a Magic-Users store. A staircase on this level descends into a series of randomly generated underground mazes. Deeper levels contain more powerful monsters and better treasures. Each time the player ascends or descends a staircase, a new level is created and the old one discarded; only the town persists throughout the game.

As in most roguelikes, it is impossible to re-load from a save if your character dies, as the game saves the state only upon exit, preventing save-scumming that is a key strategy in most computer games that allow saving.

The balrog (represented by the upper-case letter B) is encountered at the deepest depths of the dungeon. Once the balrog has been killed, the game has been won, and no further saving of the game is possible.

Player characteristics

Character sheet for a level 34 elf mage. UmoriaPlayerCharacteristics.png
Character sheet for a level 34 elf mage.

The player has many characteristics in the game. Some characteristics like sex, weight and height cannot be changed once the player has been created, while other characteristics like strength, intelligence, and armor class can be modified by using certain items in a particular way. Mana and hit points are replenished by rest or by some other magical means. Gold accrues as the player steps on gems or currency. Experience accrues as the player performs various actions in the dungeon, mostly by killing creatures. The "miscellaneous abilities" are modified as each skill is performed and as the player increases in experience.

See also

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  1. "Moria". RogueBasin. Retrieved 29 August 2017.
  2. "[The idea for Diablo] was modified over and over until it solidified when [Dave Brevik] was in college and got hooked on … Moria/Angband." Pitts, Russ (6 June 2006). "Secret Sauce: The Rise of Blizzard". The Escapist . Retrieved 20 December 2012.
  3. 1 2 Freeing an old game by Ben Asselstine on Free software magazine (2007-03-12)
  4. 1 2 "…I worked on one of the early VAX 11/780's [so] no more games, and no more rogue! This was intolerable! So I decided to write my own rogue game, Moria Beta 1.0." Koeneke, Robert Alan (21 February 1996). "Early history of Moria" . Retrieved 3 August 2017.
  5. 1 2 "Breaking ground in 1981, Koeneke built on the foundations of Rogue..." Craddock, David L. (5 August 2015). "Chapter 7: None Shall Pass - Braving the Mines of Moria". Dungeon Hacks: How NetHack, Angband, and Other Roguelikes Changed the Course of Video Games. Press Start Press. p. 246. ISBN   978-0692501863.
  6. "Here it is! A Unix version of the popular VMS game Moria" Wilson, James E. (5 November 1987). "Umoria - single player dungeon simulation" . Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  7. Homepage of the free-moria project