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Telengard box front.jpg
Developer(s) Daniel Lawrence
Publisher(s) Avalon Hill
Platform(s) Apple II, TRS-80, Atari 8-bit, PET, Commodore 64, CP/M, IBM PC
Genre(s) Dungeon crawl, role-playing
Mode(s) Single-player

Telengard is a 1982 role-playing dungeon crawler video game developed by Daniel Lawrence and published by Avalon Hill. The player explores a dungeon, fights monsters with magic, and avoids traps in real time without any set mission other than surviving. Lawrence first wrote the game as DND , a 1976 version of Dungeons & Dragons for the DECsystem-10 mainframe computer. He continued to develop DND at Purdue University as a hobby, rewrote the game for the Commodore PET 2001 after 1978, and ported it to Apple II+, TRS-80, and Atari 800 platforms before Avalon Hill found the game at a convention and licensed it for distribution. Its Commodore 64 release was the most popular. Reviewers noted Telengard's similarity to Dungeons and Dragons. RPG historian Shannon Appelcline noted the game as one of the first professionally produced computer role-playing games, and Gamasutra 's Barton considered Telengard consequential in what he deemed "The Silver Age" of computer role-playing games preceding the golden age of the late 1980s. Some of the game's dungeon features, such as altars, fountains, teleportation cubes, and thrones, were adopted by later games such as Tunnels of Doom .

A role-playing video game is a video game genre where the player controls the actions of a character immersed in some well-defined world. Many role-playing video games have origins in tabletop role-playing games and use much of the same terminology, settings and game mechanics. Other major similarities with pen-and-paper games include developed story-telling and narrative elements, player character development, complexity, as well as replayability and immersion. The electronic medium removes the necessity for a gamemaster and increases combat resolution speed. RPGs have evolved from simple text-based console-window games into visually rich 3D experiences.

Avalon Hill board game company

Avalon Hill Games Inc. is a game company that specializes in wargames and strategic board games. Its logo contains its initials "AH", and the company is now often referred to by this abbreviation. Before its takeover by Hasbro, it was known as The Avalon Hill Game Company and the initials TAHGC. It has also published miniature wargaming rules, role-playing games and sports simulations. It is now a subsidiary of the game company Wizards of the Coast, which is itself a subsidiary of Hasbro.

DND is one of the earliest role-playing video games. The name DND is derived from the abbreviation "D&D" from the original tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons. The video game was first released in 1977.



A player navigates the dungeon in the IBM version 800px-Telengard Screen Shot2.jpg
A player navigates the dungeon in the IBM version

In Telengard, the player travels alone through a dungeon fraught with monsters, traps, and treasures in a manner similar to the original Dungeons & Dragons . [1] The game has 50 levels with two million rooms, 20 monster types, and 36 spells. It has no missions or quests, and its only goal is to survive and improve the player character. [2] The game is set in real time and cannot be paused, [2] so the player must visit an "inn" to save their game progress. In the early releases (e.g., Apple II), the game world has no sound and is represented by ASCII characters, such as slashes for stairs and dollar signs for treasure. [1] Unless the player enters a special cheat, they cannot resume progress upon dying. [1]

<i>Dungeons & Dragons</i> fantasy role-playing board game

Dungeons & Dragons is a fantasy tabletop role-playing game (RPG) originally designed by Gary Gygax and Dave Arneson. It was first published in 1974 by Tactical Studies Rules, Inc. (TSR). The game has been published by Wizards of the Coast since 1997. It was derived from miniature wargames, with a variation of the 1971 game Chainmail serving as the initial rule system. D&D's publication is commonly recognized as the beginning of modern role-playing games and the role-playing game industry.

Level (video gaming) in a video game, space available to the player in completing an objective

A level, map, area, stage, world, track, board, floor, zone, phase, mission, episode, or course in a video game is the total space available to the player during the course of completing a discrete objective. Video game levels generally have progressively increasing difficulty to appeal to players with different skill levels. Each level presents new content and challenges to keep player's interest high. The use of levels in video games dates back to Namco's shoot 'em up Galaxian, released in 1979 during the golden age of video arcade games.

Player character fictional character in a role-playing or video game that can be played or controlled by a real-world person

A player character is a fictional character in a role-playing game or video game whose actions are directly controlled by a player of the game rather than the rules of the game. The characters that are not controlled by a player are called non-player characters (NPCs). The actions of non-player characters are typically handled by the game itself in video games, or according to rules followed by a gamemaster refereeing tabletop role-playing games. The player character functions as a fictional, alternate body for the player controlling the character.

The single-player adventure begins by personalizing a player character. Each character has randomly generated values for their statistical character attributes: charisma, constitution, dexterity, intelligence, strength, and wisdom. [lower-alpha 1] While the algorithm stays the same, the player can randomize repeatedly for new character attribute distributions until satisfied. The player begins with a sword, armor, shield, and no money, and can only see his immediate surroundings, rather than the whole level. [4] Monsters spawn randomly, and players have three options in battle: fight, use magic, or evade. Magic includes combative missiles, fireballs, lightning bolts, and turning the undead, as well as health regeneration and trap navigation. The effects of the game's most complex spells are not outlined in the instruction manual and must be learned by trial and error. Like the game, the battle events are carried out in real time instead of in turns. [5] Enemies increase in difficulty as the player progresses through the dungeon. [1] They include both living and undead monsters such as elves, dragons, mummies, and wraiths. Defeating enemies awards experience points, which accrete to raise the player's experience level and increase player stats. [3] The player is rewarded with treasures that include magical weapons, armor items, and potions. Players can code their own features into the game. [5]

An attribute is a piece of data that describes to what extent a fictional character in a role-playing game possesses a specific natural, in-born characteristic common to all characters in the game. That piece of data is usually an abstract number or, in some cases, a set of dice. Some games use different terms to refer to an attribute, such as statistic, (primary) characteristic or ability. A number of role-playing games like Fate do not use attributes at all.


While a computer science student at Purdue University, Daniel Lawrence wrote several hobbyist computer games for the university's PDP-11 RSTS/E mainframe computer, and one grew into Telengard. [6] In his 1976 and 1977 college summers at home, he worked at BOCES in Spencerport, New York, where he wrote a dungeon crawl game called DND (not to be confused with dnd) in the BASIC programming language for the DECsystem-10's TOPS-10 operating system. [7] [8] He had been influenced by the pen and paper Dungeons & Dragons. [9] At college, he ported the game to Purdue's PDP-11 RSTS/E. [7] [lower-alpha 2] The game's mechanics grew from conversations at the Purdue engineering building. Part of its "real-time" nature descended from the need to not have players occupy the few shared computer terminals for long. [9]

Computer science study of the theoretical foundations of information and computation

Computer science is the study of mathematical algorithms and processes that interact with data and that can be represented as data in the form of programs. It enables the use of algorithms to manipulate, store, and communicate digital information. A computer scientist studies the theory of computation and the practice of designing software systems.

Purdue University public research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, United States

Purdue University is a public research university in West Lafayette, Indiana, and the flagship campus of the Purdue University system. The university was founded in 1869 after Lafayette businessman John Purdue donated land and money to establish a college of science, technology, and agriculture in his name. The first classes were held on September 16, 1874, with six instructors and 39 students.

PDP-11 series of 16-bit minicomputers sold by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC)

The PDP-11 is a series of 16-bit minicomputers sold by Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) from 1970 into the 1990s, one of a succession of products in the PDP series. In total, around 600,000 PDP-11s of all models were sold, making it one of DEC's most successful product lines. The PDP-11 is considered by some experts to be the most popular minicomputer ever.

In 1978, Lawrence purchased the Commodore PET 2001 and no longer needed the university's computer. He rewrote DND as Telengard within eight kilobytes of memory. [7] Due to a lack of space, he designed the dungeon to be procedurally generated based on the player-character's position so the maps would not have to be stored in memory. Lack of memory was Lawrence's primary design obstacle. [9] Nevertheless, the final version almost completely used 32 kilobytes of memory. It was easily ported to the Apple II+ and TRS-80 platforms due to their similar usage of the 8K BASIC programming language. The later Atari 800 port required a more complicated handling of string variables. [7] The three ports were finished before Avalon Hill saw the game at a gaming convention and licensed it in 1982 as one of its first computer games. [9] The IBM PC port required a rewrite into the C programming language; the source code for this version was later lost. [7] The Heath/Zenith CP/M version requires MBASIC. [10] The game's most popular port was for the Commodore 64. [2]

TRS-80 TRS-80 (Model I)

The TRS-80 Micro Computer System is a desktop microcomputer launched in 1977 and sold by Tandy Corporation through their Radio Shack stores. The name is an abbreviation of Tandy/Radio Shack, Z-80 microprocessor. It was one of the earliest mass-produced and mass-marketed retail home computers.

String (computer science) sequence of characters, data type

In computer programming, a string is traditionally a sequence of characters, either as a literal constant or as some kind of variable. The latter may allow its elements to be mutated and the length changed, or it may be fixed. A string is generally considered a data type and is often implemented as an array data structure of bytes that stores a sequence of elements, typically characters, using some character encoding. String may also denote more general arrays or other sequence data types and structures.

In computing, source code is any collection of code, possibly with comments, written using a human-readable programming language, usually as plain text. The source code of a program is specially designed to facilitate the work of computer programmers, who specify the actions to be performed by a computer mostly by writing source code. The source code is often transformed by an assembler or compiler into binary machine code understood by the computer. The machine code might then be stored for execution at a later time. Alternatively, source code may be interpreted and thus immediately executed.

Matt Barton of Gamasutra reported that Lawrence's DND (and consequently, his Telengard) was directly inspired by Whisenhunt and Wood's dnd for PLATO, with its randomized dungeons and minimalist graphics, [2] though Lawrence recalled in an interview that he had not seen or known of their game. [9] Computer Gaming World's Scorpia wrote that Telengard was based on the earlier, public domain software Castle Telengard. [11]

<i>Gamasutra</i> website

Gamasutra is a website founded in 1997 that focuses on all aspects of video game development. It is owned and operated by UBM Technology Group, a division of UBM and acts as the online sister publication to the print magazine Game Developer.

<i>Dnd</i> (video game) role-playing video game

dnd is a role-playing video game. The name dnd is derived from the abbreviation "D&D" from the original tabletop role-playing game Dungeons & Dragons, which was released in 1974.

PLATO (computer system) mainframe computer system

PLATO was the first generalized computer-assisted instruction system. Starting in 1960, it ran on the University of Illinois' ILLIAC I computer. By the late 1970s, it supported several thousand graphics terminals distributed worldwide, running on nearly a dozen different networked mainframe computers. Many modern concepts in multi-user computing were originally developed on PLATO, including forums, message boards, online testing, e-mail, chat rooms, picture languages, instant messaging, remote screen sharing, and multiplayer video games.

As the game's BASIC source code was available, ports and remaster exist therefore by the fan community. [12] [13] [14]

Reception and legacy

Norman Banduch reviewed Telengard in The Space Gamer No. 58. [15] Banduch commented that "Telengard could have been a good game, but is marred by poor programming and lack of polish. If you don't want to rewrite it yourself, wait for the second edition." [15]

RPG historian Shannon Appelcline identifies Telengard as one of the first professionally produced computer role-playing games. [8] Gamasutra's Barton described the game as a "pure dungeon crawler" for its lack of diversions, and noted its expansive dungeons as a "key selling point". [2] AllGame's Earl Green remarked that the game's mechanics were very similar in practice to Dungeons & Dragons, [1] The Commodore 64 Home Companion described it as in Dungeons-and-Dragons style", [16] Computer Gaming World's Dick McGrath also thought the game "borrowed heavily" from the original such that he expected its creators to be thanked in the end credits, [4] and Scorpia cited four specific similarities with Dungeons & Dragons. [17]

Green described the game as both "exceedingly simple ... yet very addictive" and rated it four of five stars. [1] McGrath wrote that he wanted to have more control over his money, and added that a store for purchasing upgrades would have been useful. He thought that games such as Dunjonquest and Maces and Magic handled this aspect better. McGrath suggested that the player draw their own map in the absence of an overview mapping system. [4] He felt that his appreciation for the game grew with time and that it had the necessary hook to make him continually return and play again. [5] Tony Roberts of Compute! considered the Commodore 64 version of the game best for its enhanced graphics. [3] The Commodore 64 GHome Companion agreed, stating that it "has some fine sprite graphics and sound effects not found in other versions of the game". [16] Scorpia in 1993 stated that while Telengard was "interesting for its time, the game would be pretty dated today" compared to the Gold Box games; "back then, however, it was hot stuff, and a fun way of passing the time". [17]

Barton of Gamasutra placed Telengard alongside Wizardry and the early Ultima series in what he deemed "The Silver Age" of computer role-playing games that preceded the golden age of the late 1980s. [2] Yet in 1992, Computer Gaming World's Gerald Graef wrote that Telengard and Temple of Apshai were "quickly overshadowed" by the Wizardry and Ultima series. [18] [lower-alpha 3] Some of the game's dungeon features, such as altars, fountains, teleportation cubes, and thrones, were adopted by later games such as Tunnels of Doom . The 1982 Sword of Fargoal similarly shared features. Barton wrote in 2007 that Telengard "still enjoys considerable appreciation today" and questioned whether the Diablo series was "but an updated Telengard". [2]

Notes and references


  1. Charisma changes how enemies respond to the player's presence. Constitution determines the degree of damage taken in battle. Dexterity is a measure of ability to evade when in battle. Intelligence affects magical spell ability. Strength affects combat ability. Wisdom lets the player use healing and undead spells. [3]
  2. He was later asked to port DND to an outside company's DECsystem-20 as well. [7]
  3. Computer Gaming World's Roy Wagner wrote that Telengard and Temple of Apshai were "very similar". [19]

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  12. Telengard on
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