Zork III

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Zork III
Zork III box art.jpg
Cover art
Personal Software
Designer(s)Tim Anderson
Marc Blank
Dave Lebling
Bruce Daniels
SeriesZork Edit this on Wikidata
Platform(s)Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit, Commodore 64, CP/M, IBM PC, MSX, TRS-80, Macintosh, Atari ST, Amiga
ReleaseRelease 10: August 18, 1982

Release 12: October 25, 1982
Release 15: March 31, 1983
Release 16: April 10, 1983
Release 15: May 18, 1984

Release 17: July 27, 1984
Genre(s)Interactive fiction

Zork III: The Dungeon Master is an interactive fiction video game written by Marc Blank, Dave Lebling, Bruce Daniels, and Tim Anderson and published by Infocom in 1982. Infocom's fourth game, it's the third game in the Zork trilogy. It was released for the Amstrad CPC, Apple II, Atari 8-bit family, Commodore 64, CP/M, IBM PC (as a self-booting disk), MSX, TRS-80, then later for Macintosh, Atari ST, and Amiga.


The player begins at the bottom of the Endless Stair from Zork II.

Zork III is less of a straightforward treasure hunt than previous installments. Instead, the player—in the role of the same "adventurer" played in Zork I and Zork II—must demonstrate worthiness to assume the role of the Dungeon Master.

The player must get past the Guardians of Zork, with the complete garb of the Dungeon Master, and then endure a final test. The player must be wearing the amulet (found at the bottom of the lake), the cloak and hood (received when the player chooses to look under the hood of the vanquished opponent in the Land of Shadow rather than deal the final blow), the staff (received from the man at the Cliff for helping him retrieve the chest of valuables; attacking the man in any way or trying to take the valuables from him inevitably breaks the staff), the strange key (found in the Key Room when the player uses the grue repellent (from Zork II) to get past the dark places), the royal ring (retrieved from the Royal Museum by using the gold machine to travel back to the year 776 GUE), and the black book (found in the Royal Puzzle).

Unlike Zork I and Zork II, there is a time-sensitive event: an earthquake which is randomly triggered about 130 turns into gameplay. The player must retrieve the key before the earthquake (when the Aqueduct is broken, leaving no escape route from the Key Room) and can't complete the Royal Puzzle or retrieve the ring until after the earthquake (when the unopenable Great Door breaks). Also unlike the previous two Zork games, the lantern is of little relevance. It is needed only to walk through the dark areas of the Junction, Creepy Crawl and Foggy Room at the beginning of the game (often done after completing the Land of Shadow, Cliff, and Flathead Ocean—saying "Hello, Sailor" to the Viking yields an invisibility vial—tasks). Another light source, the torch from the Scenic Vista, is used to retrieve the repellent from Zork II and deposit it in the Damp Passage via the teleportation table to provide a light source for the return journey after retrieving the key.

Once the player has all the items, they must give the waybread to the elderly man in the Engravings Room, who reveals himself as the Dungeon Master once fed, to find the doorway leading to the final hallway. Here the "elvish sword of great antiquity" is used to block the beam in the Beam Room. Next the adventurer must get through the Guardians of Zork. This can either be accomplished by using the complicated Mirror Box or by simply drinking the invisibility potion in the vial from the Flathead Ocean. When the player knocks on the Dungeon Master's door he will only open it if the player is fully equipped (see above). He then tells the adventurer that he will obey their commands and follow them to help solve the final puzzle. The corridors lead to a parapet which overlooks the fiery cells. Reading the book here reveals a map of "The Dungeon and Treasury of Zork" which has 8 cells, one of which with a bronze door that leads to the Treasury of Zork. The eight positions of the dial in the parapet correspond to the 8 cells. The adventurer must use trial and error at this point to summon the cell with the bronze door and have the dungeon master return it to its original position by replacing it with any other cell. The key will now unlock the door revealing the Treasury of Zork, which contains the wealth of the Great Underground Empire as well as a controlling share in FrobozzCo International. After this victorious discovery, the Dungeon Master appears and transforms the player into a duplicate of himself, signifying the player's succession to his position.

Steve Meretzky said in 1984 that "the worst bug that ever got out was in Zork III"; having the sword during the last puzzle makes the game unwinnable. "We call things like that our 'fatal errors'; we caught that one relatively early on", he said.[1]


Zork III has 30 ways to die.[2] Compared to the other games in the series, the scoring system is unusual in that it measures the player's "potential", and is not simply a reflection of the number of treasures found. Points are awarded for taking creative steps toward solving problems rather than actually solving them (e.g. jumping in the lake earns the adventurer a point, but successfully taking the amulet on the bottom of the lake does not). This system makes it possible for the player to have all 7 points without being close to finishing the game.

This game contains the payoff to the "Hello, Sailor" joke that was introduced in Zork I. Saying "hello sailor" has the effect of:

The seaman looks up and maneuvers the boat toward shore. He cries out "I have waited three ages for someone to say those words and save me from sailing this endless ocean. Please accept this gift. You may find it useful!" He throws something which falls near you in sand, then sails off toward the west, singing a lively, but somewhat uncouth, sailor song.

For the rest of the game, saying hello sailor elicits the response "Nothing happens anymore." Everywhere else, saying "hello sailor" induces the response, "Nothing happens here."[3]


Zork III sold 129,232 copies by 1986.[4] Creative Computing's reviewer wrote that "in my opinion, Zork III is the best of the series".[5] The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software 1984 gave the game an overall A+ rating, calling it "perhaps the most entertaining of the three" and with "an unexpected and novel twist" in the ending. The book concluded that "Zork III represents a highwater mark for subtlety and logic, and is a Four Star must".[6] K-Power rated Zork III 8 out of 10, calling it "the most intelligent text game for a microcomputer that we've ever seen".[7]


A gold machine (known as the "Temporizer") is used to travel through time in Zork III. According to the strategy guide, for the 1996 game Zork Nemesis is caused by using the machine. The name's shortened form, "golmac," is the name of a time-travel spell in Sorcerer.


  1. ^ Dyer, Richard (1984-05-06). "Masters of the Game". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on 1997-06-07.
  2. ^ "Infocom Scoreboard" (PDF). The New Zork Times. 3 (2): 3. Spring 1984.
  3. ^ Game response to "hello sailor" at the first prompt. ZORK III: The Dungeon Master; 1982; Infocom, Inc.; Release 17, serial number 840727.
  4. ^ Carless, Simon (2008-09-20). "Great Scott: Infocom's All-Time Sales Numbers Revealed". GameSetWatch. Think Services. Archived from the original on 2008-09-24. Retrieved 2008-09-23.
  5. ^ Townsend, Carl (November 1983). "Zork III: a classic adventure". Creative Computing. p. 141. Retrieved 28 August 2016.
  6. ^ Stanton, Jeffrey; Wells, Robert P.; Rochowansky, Sandra; Mellid, Michael, eds. (1984). The Addison-Wesley Book of Atari Software. Addison-Wesley. pp. 30–31. ISBN 0-201-16454-X.
  7. ^ Saberhagen, Eric and Tom (February 1984). "Zork III". K-Power. p. 58. Retrieved 16 January 2015.

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