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

Telengard is a computer-based video game that provides an early example of the dungeon crawl genre. The game, written in 1978 by Daniel Lawrence (1958–2010), was purchased by Avalon Hill in 1982 and made available on multiple computer platforms. These included the Commodore 64, the Apple II+, TRS-80, Atari 400 and Atari 800, Zenith Z-89/Zenith Z-100, and various IBM machines such as the IBM PCjr, and the IBM PC.[1] Telengard is available on Windows and many ports and emulations are available for modern computers and operating systems.

Telengard, originally written for only 8 kilobytes of memory, offers no final solution for players. It simply provides a gaming platform for players to explore dungeons in real time. It has been referred to as a predecessor to Diablo, and provided an early inspiration for the roguelike video game genre.


Daniel Lawrence modeled Telengard after its predecessor, DND, at Purdue University in 1978.[a] Lawrence rewrote DND in BASIC with only 937 lines of code on a Commodore PET 2001 computer, and called it Telengard.[2] 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.[3] 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 internal variables of the Atari 400/800 were different from these systems, its release took longer. C was used to program the IBM-PC version of Telengard.[4]


Telengard is one of the first dungeon crawl video games. As an "action RPG", it established "the model for which other games perfected (such as Diablo) years later", and "is arguably one of the originators of the genre".[5] 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".[6]



A screenshot of Telengard during gameplay (IBM version)

Dungeons and Dragons was very influential on Telengard, as the names of its spells indicate.[7] At the outset of the game, players select randomly generated attributes for their “warrior/wizardcharacter.[8] These include Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Constitution, Dexterity, and Charisma, which influence gameplay (image left). When “entering the dungeon”, players start at experience level one, are equipped with a sword, shield, and armor, and can use level 1 spells only.

The premise of Telengard is simple: “enter the dungeon, gather treasures, gold, and experience, and come out alive.”[9] 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, one of the many inns only accessible on level 1 of the dungeon. The interface is simple—players can move north, south, east, and west through the rooms of the dungeon. Experience can be gained by defeating any of the twenty types of monsters 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 characters 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—by values dependent on the strength of the players Constitution and Wisdom attributes, respectively.

Finding treasure

Players move from level 1 to lower levels of the dungeon by using circular stairways, accidentally falling into a pit, entering a Grey Misty Cube, using a Level 5 teleport spell or entering a teleport room. 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 in a throne or drinking from a fountain—can produce varied results ranging from changed attribute points to gain or loss of experience. Players can also amass a huge treasure by opening one of the many safes in the dungeon. 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.

A dragon encounter

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.”[10] 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”.[10] 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).[10]

The game ends only when a character's hit points drop to zero. 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.[11]

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; 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).[12]


Characters are able to use Level 1 spells at the outset of the game and acquire new spell levels (up to 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).[13] 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, such as Magic Missile or Finger of Death. Duration spells, such as Continual Light or Invisibility, will last a few turns when cast outside of combat.[14] The spells available in the game are listed below.

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[15]

Various features are encountered during gameplay. 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;[16] a player may rise or fall an experience level, or could gain or lose an attribute point—such as Strength or Dexterity.

  • Altar
  • Circular Stairway
  • Elevator
  • Fountain
  • Gem Encrusted Throne
  • Grey Misty Cube
  • Inn
  • Pit
  • Small Box With Buttons (Safe)
  • Teleportal


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

The monsters listed below are in order of their danger to the character, with the Gnoll being the least and the Dragon being the most powerful. 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."[17] Some monsters are undead, such as Skeletons and Zombies; certain spells are effective only against them, such as Turn Undead and Holy Symbol. Conversely, some spells are ineffective against the undead, such as the Sleep spell.

Magical treasure[edit]

During play, the character may pick up various magical items. 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.[18] Potions, such as the Potion of Healing, can be used at any time. The Scroll of Rescue, which is useful when an adventurer needs to return to an inn (minus any found gold) can be used only when not in combat.[18]

  • Armor
  • Elven Boots
  • Elven Cloak
  • Potion of Healing
  • Potion of Giant Strength
  • Potion of Strength
  • Ring of Regeneration
  • Shield
  • Scroll of Rescue
  • Sword


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".[7]


a. ^ : 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."[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Barton 2007.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Lawrence 2010; 2009; 2008.
  4. ^ a b Lawrence 2010.
  5. ^ 2005.
  6. ^ Telengard Tavern Generator.
  7. ^ a b Scorpia (October 1991). "C*R*P*G*S / Computer Role-Playing Game Survey". Computer Gaming World. p. 16. Retrieved 18 November 2013. 
  8. ^ Telengard Tavern generator.
  9. ^ Roberts 1983.
  10. ^ a b c Roberts 1984
  11. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. pp. 18–19.
  12. ^ Players Rule Manual.
  13. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 6.
  14. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 10.
  15. ^ Avalon Hill Game Company. Telengard: Computer Game Diskette for IBM PC & PCjr, 128k (Box Cover). Avalon Hill Game Company, 1985. 
  16. ^ Avalon Hill,1982, p. 15.
  17. ^ Telengard Rules Manual. p. 18.
  18. ^ a b Telengard Rules Manual. p. 17.


External links[edit]