Game 357: The Dungeon of Danger (1980)

From The CRPG Addict

The game efficiently blends its title screen with character creation.
The Dungeon of Danger
United States
Written and published as code in the Mostly BASIC series by Howard Berenbon
Versions released in 1980 for the Atari 800, 1981 for the Apple II and TRS-80, 1983 for the Commodore PET, 1984 for the Commodore 64
Date Started: 7 February 2020
Date Ended: 7 February 2020
Total Hours: 1
Difficulty: Very Easy-Easy (1.5/5)
Final Rating: (To come later)
Ranking at Time of Posting: (To come later)
Back in 1979, I created a game called Deadly Dungeons of Doom. Yes, I was only 6 years old, but I was a prodigy when it came to computing. It featured high-resolution, 3D graphics as the player explored a 25-level dungeon with 80 different monster types and 120 different spell types. It was never published commercially, but it was published as 127 pages of code by my elementary school press. It’s too bad no copies exist anymore.
Yep, another one of these.
According to MobyGames’ policies, apparently, that one paragraph should be sufficient for Deadly Dungeons of Doom to get a listing in their catalog. After all, they’ve relaxed their standards so much that games that exist only as oral remembrances are in there (e.g., The Pits of Baradur, Bugs ‘N Drugs, Think15). They’ve also relaxed them so much that programs appearing in print books as exercises are there (The Devil’s Dungeon, The Dungeon of Danger, Quest 1). So why not both? You doubt my veracity? I’m sure I can dig up a couple of witnesses. How many do you need?
But if I don’t at least try to play these half-assed, non-released, non-games, people feel that they have to write to me or comment on my “new plan” entries until I at least acknowledge them somehow. So here we are, playing Dungeon of Danger, a game basic enough that any one of us could have written it on the backs of cocktail napkins.
A random encounter with a good wizard offers the only graphic in the game.
You start the game. You enter a difficulty level. You enter your name. You get dumped into a two-level dungeon with 64 rooms per level arranged in an 8 x 8 grid. Your goal is to collect as much gold as possible and get out. You do that by finding your way to one of the stairway squares on Level 1. The rooms are randomized between north-south passages, east-west passages, caverns, and chambers. Any one of them might contain one of a couple dozen monster types and a couple hundred pieces of gold. You can fight or flee them.
Killing a dragon and getting its gold.
When combat comes, you and your enemy exchange blows until one of you is dead. The rolls are all randomized (roughly 1d8). You start with more hit points than any enemy in the dungeon and you can replenish them with healing potions and encounters with a friendly wizard, so you have the edge. You need to find enchanted keys to climb levels and a map on each level to actually see the 8 x 8 grid, which reminds me a bit of The Wizard’s Castle from the same year.
A map of the level. The fuzzy bit the seventh column is my current position.
There are some special encounters in the dungeon:
  • Rooms with pools of water that might freeze you, do nothing, or burn you
  • Thieves who may steal your gold or drop theirs
That could have been worse.
  • Vapors that might knock you out, causing you to awaken in a random part of the dungeon
  • Trap doors that might dump you to the next level (or into a pit if already on Level 2)
All of these events are delivered with maddening pauses between short bursts of text, as if the entire game were narrated by William Shatner. 
Every one of those sets of ellipses is accompanied by a pause as the text loads.
If you make it to the exit, the game gives you a score based on your gold, how many enemies you killed, and how long it took you. It took me less than an hour to get the highest level (Dungeon Master) on “expert” difficulty. 
I won. I hope someone, somewhere, is happy.
The Dungeon of Danger appeared as 12 pages of code in a book series called Mostly BASIC by Michigan hobbyist Howard Berenbon. It specifically appeared in the “Book 2” volume for each platform. The earliest seems to be for the Atari 800 in 1980; editions for the Apple II, TRS-80, Commodore PET, and Commodore 64 followed over the next four years. 
The initial lines of code for The Dungeon of Danger.
This was not a “game”; it was a teaching exercise. And even if I agreed that it should be listed in game databases, I wouldn’t agree that it’s an RPG, lacking any character development (anyone who says that getting more hit points is character development gets kicked off this blog), attribute-based combat, and any sort of inventory. It gets a 5 on the GIMLET.

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