Dungeons and dragons have spawned some exciting Sinclair offspring. Quentin Heath goes underground
PREPARE THYSELF for battle and, with sword in hand, enter the dungeons to face terrors beyond your imagination. I expect you have guessed that I am writing about the dungeons and dragons craze which has hit manufacturers and users of Sinclair software. I also want to introduce newcomers to the cult mythos which surrounds the subject.
A dungeons and dragons adventure usually takes place in an underground labyrinth. You will meet monsters at almost every turn and the object is to defeat them and search for treasure or magic potions.
A new game called Velnor's Lair is an example of this kind of adventure from Neptune Computing, costing £6.50.
The game is for the 48K Spectrum and takes place in the Goblin Labyrinth under Mount Elk. The Black Wizard Velnor has discovered how to transform himself into a living demon on Earth and is hiding in the caves under the mountain. You are the poor, hapless creature who has been chosen to seek and destroy the wizard before he can realise his deadly aim.
Luckily you can choose whether you want to be a wizard, warrior or priest. The wizard can use magic and his three spells include a fireball which destroys everything, a zap to turn creatures into frogs, and a teleport spell to overcome difficult situations.
Unfortunately the wizard is physically weak and cannot stand prolonged attack by sword or club. He is also limited in magical strength as his ability of 10 decreases with each spell he casts.
The priest is like the wizard but his spells will heal, shield and dispel the 'undead.' The warrior is strong and does well with his club but he has no way of defending himself against magical beings. He is the most difficult to kill.
As with all dungeons and dragons adventures, your character has certain attributes. They determine how well he does in battle and may even determine whether he is magical enough to discover a secret passage. In Velnor's Lair the screen border changes colour to denote how healthy or unhealthy you are.
I have included some playing ideas in the Hints and Tips section. They should help you to play the game and defeat a few monsters.
A do-it-yourself dungeon kit called The Dungeon Master has been produced by Crystal Computing. The package includes two programs, Dungeon Master and Dungeon Creation, which run on the 48K Spectrum.
The package is different from the average adventure game as it allows you to build your own tunnels of death. It includes an example dungeon in which you have to fight all kinds of dragons, vampires and elementals and pick up potions. You may also be caught in space and time warps which can throw you back into the room you have just left or into the last room in the dungeon.
Along the way you can pick up weapons and magical artefacts but the main purpose of the quest is to find a series of turquoise rings.
Fights need not be on a one-to-one basis. It is possible that you will meet two or even three monsters at one time. You can then select which one you want to fight first. Monsters are ranked in order of combat strength. The easiest to defeat is the giant centipede and the most dangerous is the Demogorgon.
The other program in the package is the Dungeon Creator. It enables you to create your own dungeon with all the monsters, pitfalls and rewards you want.
After being let loose on the program for two hours I could give you a fairly lengthy list of things not to do when building your friendly neighbourhood dungeon. One dungeon I created, ominously called Maximus, had me going around in circles for an hour before I realised what I had done. I had created an opening between two rooms which created a space-time loop. There was no warning but I was going alternately from one room to another. Still, that is all part of the game and something with which a dungeon master has to live.
I have been a dungeons and dragons fan for several years but there are few people who will play when I am the dungeon master. The package provides excellent entertainment to all fans of the cult and should prove a good introduction to the game.
Hints and tips
If wizard's steps you are to tread,
Velnor's visions are just a sham;
Ogres from little acorn's do not grow;
In caves with dead-ends do not look in awe,
If you should fight and run
If you have any views on mind games or if you have hints and tips on adventure, computer-moderated games or chess, please write to me: Quentin Heath, c/o Sinclair User.