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OMG: Dungeon Master by Wim Haanstra, posted at 26-01-2017 05:26 UTC

In the good old days, when I was playing games on an Atari 1040STf, one of the games my brother and I spent a lot of time on, was Dungeon Master. Released in 1987, on multiple platforms, it was one of the first RPGs I ever played.

When the game started, you needed to pick a team of 4 characters. As in every RPG, each character had its own strengths and weaknesses. A good mix was essential, because a team of wizards wouldn't last past the first corner and a team of tanks was useless from a distance. So you put your tanks in the front of your groups and the wizards in the back. Because I was about 8 years old when I started playing this game, this really owned dawned on me after a couple of tries.


Figuring out where to go in this game, as it was a grid based maze, was tough. You had to remember where you were and what parts of the map you already visited. To keep track of this, we drew the maps on paper and hoped we could figure it out that way. But the maps were huge (according to our 8 and 10 year old brains) and keeping track of it while playing was still quite hard. Finally, some time later a magazine published the maps, which we went out for and bought.

According to our standards now, the maps were quite simple. There was no up or down and the ceiling was always 1 wall height up. You did have holes in the ground though, but this was more of a 'insta-gib' kind of hole than a 'we found a secret' hole.

Maps did contain secrets though, these were either opened by a small button nearby, a pressure plate or some other action. Finding them wasn't always easy, but sometimes it contained some good loot!


Because Dungeon Master was one of the first RPGs we played, we had some management to learn. Our team needed to eat, skills needed to be levelled and weapons to be distributed. The characters in the front of your team were equiped with melee or throwing weapons and the back of your team used either throwing weapons or magic to hit enemies. You could switch around characters, to move a tank out of the way if it was hurt, but then your wizard was in front and he would die a quick (and maybe painful?) death.


There were a lot of enemies in this game and they would move around the map as far as they could (was there an algorithm to it?). They picked up objects and followed you around once they saw you. This was both useful and annoying. You really needed to run, if you wanted to escape after a battle where half your team died. Sometimes it was also useful, when you wanted to lure them to a gate which could be used to drop on their heads.

My favourite enemies where either the little 'tree' guys or the purple worm like animals. Mainly because they sliced up in nice little pieces, which you could eat afterwards. Nothing as refreshing as a purple worm like thing after a good old fight.


The magic system was quite comprehensive. It worked with a series of icons you could click to create a spell. Nowadays you would simple google 'dungeon master spells', but back then you had to learn them by either find scrolls or dumb luck. A spell always started with a 'strength' icon, at first you could only throw the weakest fireball (still pretty strong, a fireball) and later on, when your character was a higher level, you could use stronger version of that spell. The scrolls describing the spells could be found all over the map, sometimes in plain sight, dropped from an enemy or in a secret.


I got Dungeon Master running on my Mac a while back, which wasn't an easy task, but it still is a good game. Sure it doesn't look like much nowadays but the principles still work. Picking a team, levelling your crew and running through mazes either scared, beaten up and low on health or just like there is no tomorrow, is still a lot of fun.

A couple of years ago a Dungeon Master inspired game was released: Legend of Grimrock. This game gave me the real Dungeon Master feeling again and is also quite good. If you haven't played any of these games, I can really recommend this.