|It must be a pain in the neck to get supplies to this castle.|
Dungeons, Dragons, and Other Perils
James Hurd (developer); XLent Software (publisher)
Released 1984 for Atari 8-bit
Date Started: 31 March 2015
Date Started: 31 March 2015
Date Ended: 31 March 2015
Total Hours: 4
Reload Count: 0 (except to try different characters)
Difficulty: Very Easy (1/5)
Final Rating: 10
Final Rating: 10
Ranking at Time of Posting: 5/179 (3%)
Well, here's a first. When Dungeons, Dragons, and Other Perils booted up on my Atari 800 emulator, a tune came blaring forth (you can hear it here; the video is worth watching for a sense of gameplay) that I recognized but couldn't place. So I used the "SoundHound" app to analyze it and give me the answer: Bach's Fugue in G Minor. What a time we live in.
That is literally the most interesting thing I have to tell you about the game. Dungeons, Dragons, and Other Perils is a remake of Brian Reynolds's Quest 1 (1981), the diskmag game that also inspired Jeff Hurlburt's Super Quest (1983). DDOP, written by James Hurd of XLEnt Software and sold for $19.95, offers no attribution to its source, but the similarities are obvious, from the division of arrows into "normal" and "magic," the use of thrown holy water as a weapon, the types of treasures you can find, and the basic appearance of the interface. In 1981, its style of gameplay was hardly state-of-the-art (it was printed as 400 lines of code as a programming exercise, after all); by 1984, it's amazing that someone had the gall to charge for it.
|A shot from Quest 1.|
|A comparable shot from Dungeons, Dragons, and Other Perils. Note the number of monsters in the upper-right. The original game offers more text on-screen.|
In some ways, DDOP is even more primitive than its predecessor. Where Quest 1 offered a full store to buy items, DDOP offers only a Monty Hall-esque "Nine Doors of Death" that you choose at random, and take or leave whatever they're selling before getting cast into the dungeon. You can return to the "Nine Doors" by hitting the ESC key and using up a "Teleportation Crystal"--but only if you're out of keys. The entire game is a little weird that way. DDOP has some better icons than Quest 1, but less information on the main screen.
|This doesn't make a lot of sense, particularly since the doors offer merchants, not "death."|
You start the game by specifying a name and then getting random rolls for strength (1-20), hit points (1-6), experience (0-100), teleportation crystals (0-20), and gold (0-100). You then choose a class from among eight possibilities: wizard, dwarf, elf, paladin, assassin, cleric, fighter, and mentor. After making this selection, you get a random number of torches, magic arrows, normal arrows, healing potions, holy water, and keys.
|Character creation. It doesn't make a lot of sense that "experience" would be a randomly-assigned attribute.|
After this process concludes, whatever score you had for "strength" gets assigned to "dexterity" instead, and "experience" gets renamed as "wisdom." You then get random scores assigned for actual strength, intelligence, constitution, and charisma. The manual doesn't really help explain this process, except to say: "Charisma will do you practically no good at all in this game. We just stuck it in there for fun. Intelligence also doesn't affect much." This means that the only useful statistics are strength and dexterity, just like Quest 1. Whatever whimsical explanation he gave, I suspect the developer added the others to make it seem more like Dungeons & Dragons.
|A later character sheet with more information.|
After your first visit to the Nine Doors of Death, where you might be able to spend your extra gold on additional arrows, magic arrows, and healing potions. But you can only choose one, after which you get kicked into the dungeon, consisting of multiple rooms and corridors full of monsters, treasure chests, and traps. Just like Quest 1, if a room has multiple monsters, they spawn one-by-one in the middle of the room and rush to attack you. You can take them out with arrows (normal or magic), healing potions, or knives before they reach you; otherwise, you (F)ight them to death. Some creatures, like wraiths, only respond to certain weapons (e.g., holy water and magic arrows).
|My assassin character encounters a wraith (which looks more like a spider) guarding a chest. Four more wait in the wings.|
If the game is innovative in anything, it's in the use of character classes. Certain commands are only available to certain classes. For instance, only clerics or paladins can (T)hrow holy water and only wizards can cast a (S)pell (a single, all-purpose "blast" spell). The odd "Mentor" class has the ability to flexibly switch between any of the others except clerics and wizards.
|Finding some treasure in a chest.|
The game is odd in other ways. "Torches" appears as an item on the opening character creation screen but is never mentioned again. "Wisdom" increases as you kill monsters, but no other attributes do, and there's not much sense that the character is getting stronger. You can stand right next to a monster and have him gnaw at you for minutes without taking any damage. If you die, nothing actually seems to happen: the screen redraws, but you can continue playing, albeit with 0 hit points and the screen constantly flashing at you to warn you of low health.
There's no sense in the manual of a game world or main quest. I guess you just keep wandering the dungeon getting stronger. [Later edit: Eventually, you kill all the monsters and the game ends. See update below.]
|The manual, courtesy of the awesome folks at the Museum of Computer Adventure Game History.|
With such limited inventory mechanics and character development, the game barely qualifies as an RPG, and thus there really isn't more to say about it--except for the manual, credited to a Jennifer Brabson. Though low-budget in its text and illustrations, it can be rather funny. It starts:
In the beginning of the game, there is a nice little picture of a castle. This is called a title screen. A title screen helps you remember which program you have inadvertently stuck in your disk drive. If you get a title screen with a space ship emitting little rays of destructive material, then you obviously put the wrong disk into your drive.
This little gem of advice should accompany every software purchase today:
When the game says "PRESS ANY KEY TO CONTINUE," that's what it means! All you have to do is press a key on your keyboard. If you don't understand that, you should shut your computer off and give up.
Here's another bit of advice that legions of online gamers (and my own commenters) could follow: "By the way, if you're civilized, you'll use the shift key and capitalize your name." It doesn't also specify that names shouldn't have numbers in them, but I'm sure that to Ms. Brabson, that went without saying.
Here's an early sign of strife between PC gamers and console gamers: "Press the first letter of the character type you desire. We've found that this is a good shortcut for those who forget how to type after they started using a joystick for everything."
Alas, DDOP is hardly a shining example of a good PC game. In my GIMLET, it gets only a 9 [10 after the edit], 3 points lower than the original Quest 1 and 12 points lower than 1983's Super Quest, which did a lot more interesting things with the mechanics.
XLent software, based in Springfield, Virginia, published a handful of educational programs and some arcade games like Miniature Golf Plus and Cross-Town Crazy Eight, but as far as I can tell, no other RPGs. I don't see James Hurd credited on anything else, so I suspect he was an independent developer and got XLent to publish "his" creation. I can't find a shred of evidence that Dungeons, Dragons, and Other Perils was liked or even played in its time. A handful of advertisements in Analog Computing show that it was being laughably advertised as "the most accurate D&D adventure for your Atari." Granted, there weren't a lot of games for the Atari 8-bit in the early 1980s, but such an award would go to any of the Dunjonquest titles, Ali Baba, or even Telengard before it would go to this game.
So that was a quick one. Still working on Tunnels & Trolls. With this game off the list, the last game of 1990--Angband--just appeared. But next we'll have Worlds of Ultima: Savage Empire, which I still can't tell if I'm looking forward to.
Update from 04/03/2015:
Update from 04/03/2015:
As Tristrom Cooke reported below, there is indeed an ending to this one. It comes when you've cleared out all the monsters. Given the number of healing potions you start with, the relative ease of combat, and the fact that you can't actually die, this isn't as hard as it sounds.
In taking the time to do this, I discovered a couple of additional things:
1. I'm convinced that "holy water" doesn't actually work. No enemy ever seemed to suffer damage when I hit the appropriate key.
2. There are "glow crystals" that you can buy that supposedly reveal traps, but I didn't see any effect of this. I never actually saw traps in the game, though I suspect that's what was randomly teleporting me around.
|Then again, it doesn't say that it will "reveal" them; it says it will "reviel" them.|
3. The only monsters that require a special attack are wraiths, for whom you need magic arrows.
4. The most annoying mechanism is constantly having to go back to the "9 Doors of Death" screen because you've run out of keys to open chests. (If you're lucky, you'll find a merchant behind one of the doors that sells keys; if not, the game give you two, which means you'll be back on the screen after two more chests.) This isn't a big deal except that when you get back into the dungeon, you're in a random part, and you lose whatever navigation progress you were trying to make.
Getting the winning screen took another hour, roughly. I guess I'll add one point to "quests," for having one.
|Yeah. It took me an entire hour.|