Sword of Fargoal

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Sword of Fargoal
Sword of Fargoal.jpg
Developer(s)Jeff McCord
Platform(s)Commodore 64, VIC-20
Release1982: VIC-20
1983: C64
Genre(s) Adventure

Sword of Fargoal is a dungeon exploration video game by Jeff McCord, published by Epyx for the VIC-20 in 1982 and the Commodore 64 in 1983. The game was originally released on cassette tape and 5¼" floppy disk formats.


The player controls a warrior who explores numerous dungeon levels in search of the legendary "Sword of Fargoal."[1] The levels become progressively harder to complete as the player progresses through the game. The dungeons are initially completely dark and only illuminate as the player explores further. A countdown is initiated when the Sword of Fargoal is found, and the player has to successfully escape the dungeon before the timer runs out, or the sword is lost forever.

The Sword Level (C64)

The warrior gains character levels by gaining experience points, which increase the character's fighting ability and hit points as they progress through the dungeon. There are several items in the dungeon that help the character, which can be found in treasure chests or on slain adversaries.

Combat in the game is controlled by the computer, and the player has no control over how their warrior fights. A warrior can flee an attack at any time, unless they fall victim to a sneak attack, in which is when a monster engages in combat before the warrior has a chance to move. The warrior can move freely about the dungeon, whereas monsters take intermittently timed steps.

Each dungeon has a number of staircases that go up or down. Because each map is randomly generated, a level the player returns to will not be the same as when they left it. Stairs also provide an entry for wandering monsters that, over time, replace slain ones on a level.

Characters can find bags of gold scattered around the dungeon. The bags can be taken by enemies if they step over them. Gold can also be stolen from the character by humanoid enemies. If those thieves are killed, the gold is returned to the warrior. A warrior can only carry 100 pieces of gold, and magic sacks must be located that allow the warrior to carry more.

Each dungeon level contains a temple. Every time the warrior steps on a temple, their gold is sacrificed to their deity, which earns additional experience. If a warrior remains standing on a temple, it acts as a sanctuary where they become invisible to enemies around them.

Chests in Sword of Fargoal present a risk element. Some contain useful items, but they might contain a trap instead. Some chests explode, causing damage, and others release crumbling ceiling or pit traps. The player doesn't know what's inside a chest, so they must take the risk of receiving an item or activating a trap. Chests can be picked up by enemies if they step over them. There are six spells that can be found in the dungeon.

There are several enemies in the dungeon. In general, "human" type enemies are more dangerous than creatures. Often the game will describe whether the monster one encounters is strong or weak.


Sword of Fargoal was created by author and programmer Jeff McCord based on his original dungeon adventure, Gammaquest II, which was programmed in BASIC for the Commodore PET computer and written in 1979–1981 while he was still in high school in Lexington, Kentucky. Gammaquest II created randomly generated dungeons that were revealed piece-by-piece as the character explored the map, and stayed "lit" behind the character as it moved, emulating the "mapping" of a dungeon level. The game graphics, however, were limited to the character set of the computer.[1]

McCord accepted an offer to publish the game from the video game developer and publisher Epyx in 1982 on the VIC-20. His original name for the new version was Sword of Fargaol, deriving the name from the Old English spelling of jail (gaol), but his producer at Epyx, Susan Lee-Merrow, convinced him to change it to its present form.[1]

The following year, with the release of the Commodore 64, McCord was asked to release a version of Sword of Fargoal for that machine as well. McCord was unable to implement the conversion as it was written in BASIC, and the sprite-based graphics required machine language programming. McCord's friend Scott Corsaire (then Carter) and Steve Lepisto wrote all the machine-language code that was needed so that game would perform fast enough for the C64 version of the game.


Computer Gaming World noted some bugs and inconsistencies with the documentation, but called Sword of Fargoal "an exciting and intriguing adventure game. The graphics are beautifully crafted".[2] Ahoy! called the VIC-20 version "an engrossing adventure-type maze game".[3] The magazine stated that the Commodore 64 version was "nearly addictive", but criticized the lack of a save-game feature. It also stated that the randomized dungeons removed mapping and solving mysteries, important aspects of adventure gaming, and concluded, "This game is so close to its goal, and yet so far".[4]

Computer Gaming World in 1996 listed Sword of Fargoal as No. 147 on the "Top 150 Best Video Games of All Time".[5]


An enhanced iOS port was released in December 2009 and briefly was removed from the Apple Store before returning in October 2019 as part of the GameClub subscription service.[6][7]


  1. ^ a b c Official Sword of Fargoal website
  2. ^ Wilson, Dr. Johnny L. (July–August 1983). "The Commodore Key". Computer Gaming World. p. 42. Retrieved October 31, 2013.
  3. ^ Salm, Walter (March 1984). "VIC Game Buyer's Guide". Ahoy!. p. 49. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
  4. ^ Herring, Richard (November 1984). "Sword of Fargoal". Ahoy!. p. 40. Retrieved June 27, 2014.
  5. ^ "150 Best Games of All Time". Computer Gaming World. November 1996. pp. 64–80. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  6. ^ "Roguelike Classic 'Sword of Fargoal' Has Been Resurrected by GameClub, and is Returning to the App Store Soon". TouchArcade. November 1996. Retrieved March 13, 2019.
  7. ^ GameClub listing for Sword of Fargoal

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