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"A great game gives the players the freedom to make a vast number of choices, some of which are more beneficial than others, and some of which are disastrous, and lets them figure out which is which."
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dnd is one of the first Dungeon Crawling video games, written in 1974-75 by Gary Whisenhunt and Ray Wood for the PLATO Network and based, as its title says, on Dungeons & Dragons. The game was updated and expanded for the several years afters it publication by the original creators, as well as enthusiasts like Dirk and Flint Pellet. It was the first video game to use bosses as well as the Ur-Example of the genre that would later be known as Roguelikes.

You create a character per the very first ruleset of D&D, by rolling the dice on stats and choosing a class. Then you enter the Whisenwood Dungeon in search of Plunder and the Orb.

Being the PLATO Network, the game has graphics, and uses a Three Quarters View similar to the dungeons of The Legend of Zelda, with the walls in top view, and your character in front view. You explore the dungeon, fighting monsters and collecting treasure.

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You can leave the dungeon to rest, and use your treasure to buy items from a weapons shop and a magic shop. On your way back in, the teleporters let you skip completed levels.

At the end of the last level is the Final Boss, the Golden Dragon, who guards the Orb.

Later versions added more dungeons, a Grail to collect in addition to the Orb, and more monsters and items.

dnd inspired several more PLATO games, including Avatar and Moria.


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dnd provides examples of:

  • 1-Up: You can buy Potions of Resurrection that bring you back to life once when you're killed, as a replacement for revival spells that your fellow players could cast on you in multiplayer tabletop RPGs. They are ludicrously expensive and even when you use one, you lose all the gold you have on you when you're killed, so you never want to have to use it.
  • Action Initiative: The higher your dexterity stat, the higher the chance for you to go before your enemy in combat.
  • An Adventurer Is You: You can play as a warrior who can wear better armor and deal more damage with weapons, a wizard who can cast more spells, or a priest who can use cleric spells that work well against undead and provide utility.
  • Anti-Hoarding: The more gold you have on your person, the harder it is to evade enemy attacks.
  • Awesome, but Impractical: The Fireball and Lightning Bolt spells do more damage than any other, but due to the close confines of the dungeon, they also damage the player.
  • Boss Battle: The Golden Dragon is widely considered the Ur-Example of a video game boss, a singular, powerful enemy preventing the player from completing the game. It is the only enemy of its type in the game, it is powerful enough that it is almost guaranteed to kill you if the battle goes longer than two turns, and killing it is required to reach the end screen of the game.
  • Character Level: The game uses an experience points system and like early Dungeons & Dragons, you experience is tied to how much gold you loot from enemies and the dungeon at large. You need to leave the dungeon with 10,000 XP to level up, at which point your hit points and spell usages increase.
  • Class and Level System: You pick a class at the start of the game and the effectiveness of each of these abilities increase as you level up.
  • Dispel Magic: "Dispell" is one of the spells in the game that can eliminate magical effects. In addition, there's an opposite spell called "Datspell" just for laughs.
  • Dungeon Bypass: The "Excelsior Transporter" teleports the player from the outside the dungeon to a level of the dungeon they've already beaten, so they can skip past stuff they already played through. Notably, this only works on the way into the dungeon, so escaping the dungeon to level up or beat the game still requires you to manually beat each level again.
  • Dungeon Crawling: You play through a randomly generated dungeon with labyrinthine corridors, treasure, booby traps, and wandering monsters. Notably there's no map (unless you draw one yourself) and there's no hidden doors, which are staples of dungeons in later games of this genre.
  • Dynamic Difficulty: Once you defeat the final boss, the levels of the enemies you fight increase ten to a hundredfold just to make your final run through the dungeon that much more difficult.
  • An Economy Is You: A first for video games, when you leave the dungeon, you can buy items in Aumakua's Alchemy and Korona's Armory. Of course, each item is tailored to your adventuring experience and includes magical potions and weapons that no one but you has any use for.
  • Enemy Scan: The Amulet lets you know the level of your enemies, so that you know whether to flee or fight given your relative strength.
  • Escape Rope: A wish from a genie is the only way to leave the dungeon if you aren't on floor 1. The problem is that a genie's lamp is really rare, can't be bought, and if you use the wish, the genie disappears, so you have to be careful when you use it.
  • Final Boss: The Golden Dragon is the Ur-Example, being the ultimate enemy required to beat the game. After beating him, though, you still have to fight your way back out of the dungeon and you're almost assured to run into normal enemies along the way. This makes the distinction between the Final Boss and the last enemy you fight in the game as old as the concept of a Final Boss itself.
  • Have a Nice Death: The game will mock you for triggering traps and dying with exclamations like "You clumsy dolt!"
  • Heroic Fantasy: You play a warrior, wizard, or priest charged with rescuing a precious orb from the clutches of an evil dragon who is defended by a horde of demons, ghosts, and other vile monsters.
  • Hit Points: Your hit points are determined randomly by your class and your "Hits" stat that is randomly generated at the beginning of the game. Your hit points increase only with certain magical treasures you find in the dungeon or when you level up outside the dungeon.
  • Honest Rolls Character: The five stats are randomly determined when you start the game, with the probability of what number you get in each being equal to the probability of rolling the sum of the numbers on three six-sided dice. If you don't like the stats you got, you can just re-roll them until you get what you want, but this is only possible on the start screen. Once you actually start playing as a character, their stats are set in stone and cannot be reset.
  • Kitchen Sink Included: One of the more amusing spells in the game is "Kitchen Sink," in reference to the phrase and the versatility of magic.
  • Kryptonite Factor: The Dragon spell has no effect on normal enemies, but it instantly kills the final boss.
  • Level Drain: Certain enemies and traps can take away your experience points.
  • Level Grinding: Enemies are deadly, you need 10,000 XP for a level up, and you only level up when you backtrack to the first floor of the dungeon, so the only safe way to level up is to kill weak enemies over and over on early levels of the dungeon and exit. If you press on and get a ton of XP on the bottom floors of the dungeon, odds are you're going to die fighting your way through a dozen levels of dungeon again. This guy's playthrough offers a good insight into how necessary grinding can be.
  • Level Scaling: Of a sort. Since you level up based on how much treasure you can take out of the dungeon, the programmers added a feature where you would encounter more powerful enemies the more treasure you had.
  • MacGuffin: The Orb can't be used for anything in-game, but getting it out of the dungeon is your whole objective and doing so brings you to the win screen.
  • The Maze: Each dungeon level is filled with twisting corridors, forks in the road, dead ends, and no map to help you find your way in or out. This was back when the norm in tabletop RPGs was for players to draw their own maps of the dungeons their game-master described.
  • Mini-Boss: At the end of each level, there is a buffed up version of a normal enemy guarding a teleporter to the next level.
  • Nintendo Hard: The game is brutal. You only have about a 50% chance of beating an enemy of your level, physically attacking still lets enemies hits you, and if you die, you lose everything and a new dungeon is randomly generated. Spells make the game easier, but the best ones also damage you, you need spells to heal, you have only have a small number of spells, and worse of all, you can't regain spell usages without backtracking all the way to the entrance to dungeon in the first level. You can beat the final boss on level 17 and still have to fight through the whole dungeon again, backwards, with all the enemies ten times stronger, and if you die, you have to start at level 1 on level 1 no better than when you started.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: The Golden Dragon is a classic, evil dragon aside from his coloration (associated with good dragons in later D&D lore) and his size (his sprite makes it look a little smaller than the protagonist). Other than those two things, it hordes treasures and kills adventurers like you'd expect.
  • Permadeath: If your character dies in the dungeon, they're dead forever and all their equipment and gold is lost. You have to try the game again from the very beginning with a new character.
  • Playing with Fire: The Fireball spell is ripped straight from Dungeons & Dragons. It is one of the most powerful spells in the game, but the explosion of fire is big enough that you're guaranteed to hurt yourself when you cast it.
  • Plunder: The whole point of the game is to kill the inhabitants of this dungeon so you can get their money. This is even reflected in the leveling system, which is tied to how much loot you bring out of the dungeon.
  • Poison Mushroom: A lot of loot in the game has a random chance of being trapped and damaging you:
    • Some of the magical potions you can get as loot are just poison and damage you when you drnk them. It is impossible to distinguish the hugely beneficial magical potions from the poison ones without examining them by sight or by magic, which can fail anyway.
    • Certain magical weapons and armors are booby-trapped and can kill you upon being equipped.
    • Some spellbooks in the game only come eqipped with one spell: explosive runes, which explode in your face and kill you. Of the books that don't kill you, some will remove some of your experience points.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: When you start a new character, the dungeon, its treasures, and the geography of its levels are randomly generated. When you die, the dungeon resets again, so you can't going through the same dungeon twice with different characters.
  • Resting Recovery: Like in old-school D&D, you only regain hit points and spell usages when you rest, but you can't safely rest in a dungeon infested with monsters. So, if you ever want to get your spells back, you gotta bail out of the dungeon, where you can relax and recover in safety.
  • Roguelike: The Ur-Example, in which you fight through a randomized map against randomized enemies with a randomized character, all of which resets when you die.
  • Role-Playing Game: The first RPG videogame that still survives, only predating by pedit5. It is largely a digitized version of Dungeons and Dragons with some of the classes, spells, and magic items you'd expect with a lot of omissions, a few original concepts, and a tongue-in-cheek tone.
  • Shock and Awe: One of the wizard spells in the game is lightning bolt. Since the lightning bolt spell had a chance of bouncing off walls and hitting the caster in early Dungeons & Dragons, casting the spell damages you as the game's way of getting across that concept.
  • The Six Stats: The very first thing you do is randomly determine your Strength, Intelligence, Wisdom, Dexterity, and "Hits" (or HP) of your character. Each stat can be as low as 3 or as high as 18, with the higher number the better and numbers around 10 being the most probable to get. Notably, this stat line-up omits the Charisma from Dungeons and Dragons, probably due to the inability of the game to simulate conversation with NPCs the same way a flesh and blood dungeon-master could.
  • Take That!: Per an interview, the annoying, but weak enemy "The Glass" is based off a freshman the developers didn't like.
  • Teleportation: The Excelsior Transporter is a machine which can teleport you from town to a layer of the dungeon you've already been you, just like a transporter from Star Trek. This doesn't mesh well with the medieval fantasy setting of the game, but it was more convenient for the developers than mapping out a ton of stairs, so transporters it is.
  • Turn-Based Combat: Pretty typical stuff nowadays, you choose whether to attack, cast a spell, or flee and then your enemy does something (generally attacking you). Rinse and repeat for all combats.
  • Unknown Item Identification: You can identify whether your treasure is magical or trapped by either visually inspecting or by using a unique Cleric spell to divine knowledge about it. Each can fail, but doing both gives you pretty good odds of finding out what you got.
  • Vancian Magic: You can only cast a specific number of spells per day and then you must rest before casting a spell again. The game deviates from the Vancian systems popular in tabletop RPGs by removing the need to decide which of the lists of spells you're going to cast that day and how many times. Instead, you can just pick and freely choose which spells to cast on the fly.
  • A Winner Is You: The game immediately ends after leaving the dungeon with a simple screen saying "CONGRATULATIONS" and reminding you your characters name is in the list of winners.

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