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Telengard box front.jpg
Developer(s) Daniel Lawrence
Publisher(s) Avalon Hill
Platform(s) Atari 8-bit family, Apple II, Commodore 64, Commodore PET, IBM, TRS-80, Zenith Z-89/Z-100
Release date(s) 1982
Genre(s) Adventure (role-playing games), Role Playing, Roguelike
Mode(s) Single-player

Telengard is a computer-based video game that provides an early example of the dungeon crawl genre. It has been referred to as a predecessor to Diablo and World of Warcraft, and provided an early inspiration for the roguelike video game genre. Daniel Lawrence (1958–2010) wrote the single-player adventure game in 1978 at Purdue University for only 8 kilobytes of memory. This memory constraint required the program to generate its 2 million rooms across 50 levels of dungeons algorithmically. As time and resources during game development were also at a premium, Lawrence programmed the game for play in real time.

Avalon Hill purchased Telengard in 1982 and released the game on both floppy disk and tape at a price of US $28 and $23 respectively.[1] It was available on multiple computer platforms including the Apple II+, Atari 400 and Atari 800, Commodore 64 (the most popular platform), TRS-80, Zenith Z-89/Zenith Z-100, and various IBM machines such as the IBM PCjr, and the IBM PC.[2] Telengard is available on Windows and many ports and emulations are available for modern computers and operating systems.

Gameplay, which has been described as "simultaneously frustrating and fascinating",[3] at the start, consists of a player exploring a dungeon (described by basic graphics) in the manner of Dungeons and Dragons. Characters enter a dungeon; fight monsters through sword and sorcery; collect treasure; interact with features such as altars, fountains, thrones; and return to inns to cash in gold for experience points and recharge hit and spell points. Players gain levels[a] and additional spells with more experience, allowing them to descend further into the 50-level dungeon for the prospect of more danger but faster advancement. The game has no final objective, serving only as a platform for enjoyment or competition.

Telengard has received mixed, but generally positive reviews since the 1980s. Commentators have suggested that additional features would have improved the game, such as a game objective, more control over selecting character attributes, or the ability to spend gold earned. Various observers have highlighted the game's simplicity, challenging gameplay, and level of enjoyment. The game is still available on modern computer systems and continues to be discovered, played, and reviewed into the 21st century.


Daniel Lawrence modeled Telengard after its predecessor, DND, at Purdue University in 1978.[b] Lawrence rewrote DND in BASIC with only 937 lines of code on a Commodore PET 2001 computer, and called it Telengard.[citation needed] Since the maps presented a memory capability problem, he "reduced the number of dungeons from three [in DND] to one, and ... had the game generate the map algorithmically". This allowed the early versions of the game to fit into 8 kilobytes (kB) of memory, later expanded to a "luxurious" 32 kB of memory.[4][5] Lawrence developed the game to be played in real time due to limited amount of time on computers for play-testers. The intent was to "get them moving and not hog the terminals".[4]

After Avalon Hill purchased the game in 1982, Telengard became one of its "first round of computer game releases" for the Apple II+ and TRS-80 system, as BASIC was similar in these systems. Since the mechanics of the Atari 400/800 were different from these systems, its release took longer on these platforms. Lawrence used C to program the IBM-PC version of Telengard.[4]


Telengard is one of the first dungeon crawl video games. Matt Barton states that Telengard is the first of four games that make up the "Silver Age of CRPGs" along with The Sword of Fargoal, Tunnels of Doom, and Dungeons of Daggorath.[6] He also notes that it is "one of the more accessible and playable of the early CPRGs".[6] Barton calls Diablo an "updated Telengard"[6] and the game has been referred to as the "'World of Warcraft' of the 1980s".[7] As an "action RPG", Telengard established "the model for which other games perfected (such as Diablo) years later", and "is arguably one of the originators of the genre".[8] Telengard also introduced some "ideas that became commonplace in Roguelikes, such as scrolls, and teleporters", which "didn't set any standards, but probably inspired a lot of authors to program Roguelikes of their own".[citation needed]



A screenshot of Telengard during gameplay (IBM version)

Dungeons and Dragons was very influential on Telengard, as can be seen by the attributes, spell names, and other factors.[9][10] At the outset of the game, players select randomly generated attributes for their character, which is a combination “Fighter” and “Magic User”.[1] These include Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity, and Charisma, which influence gameplay (image left).[1] Next, players choose a name for their character.[c] Players then enter the dungeon at experience level 1 with a basic sword, shield, and armor, and the ability to cast a single level 1 spell.[1]

Gameplay progresses quickly, occurring in real-time. This contributes to the "crushing difficulty"[citation needed] of the game, as the interface is unforgiving: monsters can appear and inflict lethal damage within seconds, especially for novice characters.[3] The result is a "simple, but challenging"[8] game which requires "the ability to think quickly".[3] However, Dick McGrath states that Telengard is not simply a "cut and slash" game, and "careful planning and cautious exploration is necessary for a successful assault on the dungeon's treasures".[11] This includes mapping the dungeon to identify the locations of the various features.[11]

The premise of Telengard is simple: “enter the dungeon, gather treasures, gold, and experience, and come out alive.”[3] Players begin on level 1 of a fifty-level dungeon. Each level is 200 × 200 rooms, for a total of two million rooms. Characters begin at the bottom of the stairs to the Worthy Meade Inn,[d] one of the many inns accessible only on level 1 of the dungeon. The interface is simple—players can move north, south, east, and west through the rooms of the dungeon. Although players can see (from above) the area of dungeon within line-of-sight of their character,[1] there is no way to tell which feature waits in a particular room which, combined with the real-time aspect of the game, adds "tension" to gameplay.[6] Characters gain experience by defeating any of the twenty types of monsters that lurk in the dungeon through armed combat or through spells. Experience is also acquired by “snarfing” treasure (gold, gems, jewels, silver, treasure chests, and even refuse) which is translated into a gold value (image below right). One piece of gold is equal to one experience point when a character returns to an inn, deposits the gold, and spends the night—which also regenerates a character's spell units and hit points. When a character acquires 2,000 experience points, experience level two is reached, and a player’s hit points and spell units increase.[12]

Finding treasure

Players move between levels of the dungeon by using circular stairways, accidentally falling or descending into a pit, entering a Grey Misty Cube, using a level 5 teleport spell or entering a teleport room.[13] Lower levels bring more dangerous monsters, but higher rewards when finding treasure. While exploring the dungeon, players will encounter altars, jeweled thrones, small boxes with buttons (safes), fountains, and other features. Interaction with these features—such as sitting on a throne, reading runes, or drinking from a fountain—can produce varied results including changed attribute points (throne), gain or loss of experience or hit points, and even becoming drunk (fountain). Players can also amass a huge treasure by opening one of the many safes in the dungeon, while prying jewels from a throne can bring riches ... or a Zombie King or other powerful "royal" monster to deal with. Magic weapons, armor, rings, boots, scrolls, potions, and treasure chests appear randomly in the dungeon. Sometimes a “friendly” monster will simply give an item to a player, and some monsters (notably elves) will befriend charismatic players and heal them to full strength.

An encounter with a dragon, the strongest Telengard monster

The game relies on text and keyboard interaction and is played in real time—“Once you’re playing a real game, there is no way to check the mail or make a cup of coffee.”[3] Gameplay can only be stopped by returning to an inn or saving the game in the dungeon (allowable in some versions). A twist on gameplay is provided with the use of a keyboard buffer which “holds two or three characters, so if you get excited and begin pushing keys without thinking, you’ll blindly affect your future”.[3] The graphics for the early versions are extremely basic—in the case of the Apple version, simple walls are drawn and the player is represented by an “X” in the center of the rooms. Some versions, such as those for the Commodore 64 and IBM, feature rudimentary character and monster figures, as well as dungeon hazards (image left).[3]

The game ends only when a character's hit points drop to zero or below. There is no final mission and no way to "win" the game. It is simply a gaming platform. The player's manual provides numerous suggestions for gameplay such as contests to determine (in a given time standard), what player can amass the most experience, attain the highest level, stay alive the longest on a particular dungeon level, or slay the strongest monster.[14]

Character attributes[edit]

Selecting attributes prior to gameplay

Players choose from characters with six attributes that are randomly generated with a numerical value from 3–18 (image right); higher numbers make the character stronger. The character attributes are Strength (used to "determine success during combat"), Intelligence (assists in spell casting), Wisdom (good for "healing spells and spells dealing with Undead Creatures"), Constitution (life force of the character), Dexterity (helps in evasion tactics and in preventing the player from falling into pits), and Charisma (assists in "creature reactions" to the player).[15]


A character can employ 36 total spells in the game.[11] Characters are able to use Level 1 spells at the outset of the game and acquire new spell levels (up to spell level 6) as they increase in experience levels. Players can recharge their limited number of spell units by spending the night in an inn or drinking from a fountain (a risky endeavor with unpredictable results).[16] Spells can be cast during combat or when the player is unoccupied. Combat spells are instantaneous or last only for the duration of the combat. These include Magic Missile and Finger of Death for living monsters, and Turn Undead and similar spells for monsters who are no longer alive.[11] Other spells provide enhanced capabilities, such as Cure Serious Wounds, Detect Traps, or Levitation.[11] Duration spells, such as Continual Light or Invisibility, will last multiple turns when cast outside of combat.[17] Spells are not always successful, and a character's intelligence and wisdom attributes affect the outcome. A Hold Monster, Sleep, or Web spell may not have any effect on a monster. Other spells, such as Plague or Power Word Kill may actually backfire on the character, causing instant death. Additionally, some combat spells are only meant for certain categories of monster: casting a sleep spell on a Vampire or other undead creature is ineffective. Spells available in the game are listed below.[5]

Level 1 Level 2 Level 3 Level 4 Level 5 Level 6
Magic Missile Web Lightning Bolt Pass Wall Teleport Time Stop
Sleep Levitate Cure Serious Wounds Fireball Astral Walk Raise Dead
Cure Light Wounds Cause Light Wounds Continual Light Cause Serious Wounds Power Word Kill Holy Symbol
Light Detect Traps Invisibility Flesh to Stone Ice Storm Word of Recall
Turn Undead Charm Hold Monster Fear Wall of Fire Restoration
Protection from Evil Strength Phantasmal Force Finger of Death Plague Prismatic Wall


"It is an enigma, a maze, a treasure chest, an arena ... and it is also a quick death for the unwary. It is ... TELENGARD."

 Telengard Box Cover[18]

Various features are encountered during gameplay. These include Altars, Circular Stairways, Elevators, Fountains, Gem Encrusted Thrones, Grey Misty Cubes, Inns, Pits, Small Boxes With Buttons (Safes), and Teleportals.[19][6][3] Some provide the player with an opportunity to acquire treasure, such as by opening a safe or prying the jewels from a throne (which can be a dangerous endeavor if the Zombie King returns while doing so). Drinking from a fountain or sitting in a throne can have various effects on a character;[20] a player may rise or fall an experience level, or could gain or lose an attribute point. Feature reactions change, and additional character interactions over time will cause different results.[1]


A screenshot of a monster encounter during gameplay (IBM-compatible CGA version)

The monsters that an adventurer may encounter in the dungeon from least to most difficult to defeat are the Gnoll, Kobold, Skeleton, Hobbit, Zombie, Orc, Fighter, Mummy, Elf, Ghoul, Dwarf, Troll, Wraith, Ogre, Minotaur, Giant, Specter, Vampire, Demon, and the Dragon.[21] A character has three choices when encountering one of these twenty monsters: fighting it, casting a spell, or attempting to flee (evading).[10] The playing manual suggests to players, "Don't foolhardily take on a Level 5 Dragon if you are still a lowly Level 1 character. In fact, don't even take on a Dragon. Heroes die young."[22] Some monsters are undead, such as Skeletons and Zombies, and certain spells are effective only against them.[23] Conversely, some spells are ineffective against the undead, such as the Charm spell.[24] Certain undead monsters (Specter, Wraith, and Vampire) can also drain a level from a player.[25] This results in a loss of experience points, hit points, and spell points. If a player is at level 1, this loss of level equate to loss of life—and the end of the game.

Magical treasure[edit]

During play, the character may pick up various magical items including weapons, rings, and potions.[1] Except for potions and scrolls, items can have an associated strength indicator, such as a "Sword +3" or an "Armor +24". The higher the indicator, the more powerful the item.[26] Potions, such as the Potion of Healing, can be used at any time, although the Potion of Giant Strength is not available on all gaming platforms. Elven Boots make players fleet of foot and help prevent stumbling into a pit. The Elven Cloak may disguise a character from an approaching monster, giving the player the option to attack or let the creature pass by. The Ring of Regeneration will regenerate a player's hit points over time; a Ring of Regeneration +21 replaces 21 hit points every turn. The Scroll of Rescue can be used only when not in combat.[26] It is useful when an adventurer becomes lost and needs to return to an inn. The drawback is that the player's pockets will empty and his or her acquired gold will remain in the dungeon after use.


Telengard's "huge dungeon", and long list of monsters and spells available were "the game's key selling points".[6] However, Dick McGrath of "Computer Gaming World" stated in 1983 that Telengard would have been better with some additional features such as the ability to choose attribute values and spend acquired gold in the manner of Dunjonquest and Maces and Magic.[11] He concluded that its appeal would draw players back for additional games and that it was "still an excellent addition to the dungeon adventure collection of computer games".[11] In the same year, Tony Roberts of Compute! Magazine opined that Telengard is "an exciting game, one that can tie you up in knots and rob you of your sleep".[3] He highlighted the challenging gameplay, stating that a frustrating aspect of the game is nursing a character along for a few levels "only to stumble across a Level 32 dragon and lose in an instant".[3] "Computer Gaming World" in 1991 stated that the game was dated, but when released was "hot stuff, and a fun way of passing the time".[9] Matt Barton stated in 2007 that "Telengard is a fine game that still enjoys considerable appreciation today,"[6] and in 2014, and Earl Green gave the game four of five stars for the C64/138 and Apple II versions, with Green stating that Telengard is "An exceedingly simple and yet very addictive game."[27]


a. ^ : The word "levels" has three meanings in Telengard: (1) experience levels, which change when characters reach the next threshold of experience points (granting additional hit and spell points), (2) spell levels, which are new sets of spells that become available to characters after reaching specific experience levels, and (3) dungeon levels, which are the floors of the Telengard dungeon itself.
b. ^ : Not to be confused with the game "dnd" programmed by Whisenhunt and Wood. According to Daniel Lawrence, "I did not know/see the other game, but note I was in the same area of the country as they were. Some of my play testers may have well been giving me suggestions from their experiences elsewhere."[2] However, Matt Barton in 2007 stated that Whisenhunt and Wood's game inspired Telengard.[6]
c. ^ : By adding the letters "SV" (original bolded) to the beginning of a player's name (such as Sven, or "Svigor"), a character can be "resurrected" after an unsuccessful attempt to negotiate the Telengard dungeon.[1]
d. ^ : Some versions.


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h McGrath, Dick (May–June 1983). "Route 80: The Road to TRS-80 Gaming". Computer Gaming World 3 (3): 35. Retrieved 13 August 2014. 
  2. ^ a b Barton, Matt (22 June 2007). "Interview with Daniel M. Lawrence, CRPG Pioneer and Author of Telengard". Armchair Arcade. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Roberts, Tony (September 1983). "Telengard". Compute! (40): 176. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Lawrence, Daniel. "Daniel Lawrence Telengard Home Page". Daniel Lawrence. Retrieved 16 July 2010. 
  5. ^ a b Boris, Dan (ed.) (2008). "Telengard: Avalon Hill 1982". pp. 40–41. Retrieved 21 July 2010. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Matt Barton (23 February 2007). "The History of Computer Role-Playing Games Part 1: The Early Years (1980-1983)". Gamasutra. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  7. ^ Saint (12 March 2010). "Welcome Brave Adventurer...". Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  8. ^ a b Wes Johnson (9 November 2005). "Review of Telengard". Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  9. ^ a b Scorpia (October 1991). "C*R*P*G*S / Computer Role-Playing Game Survey". Computer Gaming World. p. 16. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  10. ^ a b McGrath, Dick (May–June 1983). "Route 80: The Road to TRS-80 Gaming". Computer Gaming World 3 (3): 35, 43. Retrieved 13 August 2014. 
  11. ^ a b c d e f g McGrath, Dick (May–June 1983). "Route 80: The Road to TRS-80 Gaming". Computer Gaming World 3 (3): 43. Retrieved 13 August 2014. 
  12. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 6.
  13. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 15.
  14. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. pp. 18–19.
  15. ^ Players Rule Manual.
  16. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 6.
  17. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 10.
  18. ^ Avalon Hill Game Company. Telengard: Computer Game Diskette for IBM PC & PCjr, 128k (Box Cover). Avalon Hill Game Company, 1985. 
  19. ^ Avalon Hill (1982). "Telengard Rules Manual". Avalon Hill. p. 15–16. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  20. ^ Avalon Hill,1982, p. 15.
  21. ^ Avalon Hill (1982). "Telengard Rules Manual". Avalon Hill. p. 12–14. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  22. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 18.
  23. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 11.
  24. ^ Avalon Hill (1982). "Telengard Rules Manual". Avalon Hill. p. 12. Retrieved 26 August 2014. 
  25. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 14.
  26. ^ a b Telengard Rules Manual. p. 17.
  27. ^ Earl Green. "Telengard". Retrieved 29 August 2014. 


External links[edit]