Archive for the ‘lords-of-karma’ Tag

Lords of Karma (1978)   2 comments

While Scott Adams had the good fortune of writing in a “meta-language” that made it easy to port to other system, his work originally was designed for the TRS-80. Of course, anything in BASIC was relatively portable, so people like Greg Hassett also embraced multiple platforms.

However, there’s another author working around the same time who was possibly the first to be ambitious from the start about portability on home computers: Gary Bedrosian.

So having what for the time was a fairly good system, I wanted to try to write an adventure game. The only trouble with that idea was that most people didn’t have what I had, so I knew if I wanted to reach a wide audience, I had to make it run on Apple, Atari, and TRS-80. The answer to my problem was a shareware program called Tiny Pascal. It was a very compact compiler (it had to be for a computer limited to less than 64 kilobytes of memory) designed for the 8080 or Z80 microprocessor. Best of all, we had the source code for Tiny Pascal in Tiny Pascal itself. So a friend and I modified Tiny Pascal so that we could cross-compile into 6502 microprocessor code for the Apple and Atari. The TRS-80 was a Z80 system so that wasn’t a problem.

Using Tiny Pascal, I wrote a very small adventure core that could handle text messages, parsing user input, and manipulating objects (matches, doors, swords, etc.) based on object tables. Remember, everything had to fit into memory, so we wrote another program that compressed text in a way that was fast to decompress on the fly, so we could store approximately 3 characters in every 2 bytes. In the final adventure game, everything including program, the text messages, and data describing the objects had to fit into less than 64 kilobytes of memory. [Source]

Using his system, he wrote Lords of Karma (1978), Empire of the Over-Mind (1979) and G.F.S Sorceress (1980). All were eventually published by Avalon Hill in 1980. Lords of Karma originally came on a single tape that worked for TRS-80, Commodore Pet, and Apple II (a tape published in 1981 also included Atari 400/800).

Some people think highly even now of Empire of the Over-Mind, so I am looking forward to seeing another early auteur in development.

But first, Lords of Karma. The game’s back cover is intentionally evasive about plot / worldbuilding / lack thereof:

However, this line in the manual is interesting:

The object of the game is to get to heaven with as many “karma points” as possible. You get these points performing deeds of kindness and bravery.

This gave me the impression the goal is not getting points by gathering all the possible treasures and hoarding them in a single room for no apparent reason, but rather to do as many good deeds as possible. After so many greedy sojourns I … think I could use a plot like that.

Before starting I also learned the map “partially randomises” [source] so we’ve got some generative roguelike-ness going on.

I actively tried to get Apple II and Commodore Pet versions to work since I’ve been doing a lot of TRS-80 lately, but unfortunately both of them had early crashes, so I had to stick with the old reliable.


You can see we’re not in for epic room descriptions. (I’m somewhat reminded of playing a old-style MUD, with a large landscape of curtly described rooms.) It turns out you are supposed to LOOK upon entering a new place.


Is the topaz a “treasure”? Do we need it? Will we get something for it? I also enjoy how the game feels compelled to mention “up” is “the sky” and “down” is “the ground”.


I guess just wandering into the throne room makes me qualified.


The MUD-like feel holds up: here we have some combat.


Picking up “treasure” did nothing for my karma, so it is possible the treasures are just means to an end (bribery, buying stuff) and not part of the overall goal at all.

At the very least this game feels very different from others I’ve played. Let’s see where it goes!

Posted August 10, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Lords of Karma: Religious Epiphany   Leave a comment

Via Ebay.

Via Ebay.

Lords of Karma (so far) features a very simple parser and gameplay which consists almost solely of wandering and slaying the occasional monster. This would be a recipe for a grind except the religion system is keeping things very interesting.

I have managed to gain some karma points. The simplest way was by defeating a monster, which I guess is improving the good of the world somehow.


I also found a “man in rags” who I could give treasures to.


although I found a bigger bang for my dollar (so to speak) by giving at a church


After entering the church and praying, I had some sort of religious experience:


Exploring the new area yielded a nearby “idol” to Baal. I had a ring I tried to give as an offering, but bad things happened:


While the church did not specify any kind of denomination, I’m guessing some sort of mutant Christianity? I’m not sure what to think yet what’s going on with religion, really — the name of the game is Lords of Karma, plural — other than I’ve been anxious to know what will happen next with the worldbuildling.

Posted August 11, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with

Lords of Karma: Finished!   Leave a comment

Before I get to the winning path, I want to talk about a few other gameplay elements.

First a map, alas incomplete (click to enlarge):


There are forests arranged in mazes and tunnels underneath that are dark. Navigating the tunnels took using my torch, which I found ran out far too quickly; it was hard to explore more than a fraction of the tunnels before it went out. That element plus the secret doors (which I’ll talk about it a moment) plus the general randomness made it too hard to be fully comprehensive about mapping.

A lot of the enemies (vampire bat, goblin, and an evil magician) were lurking down in the tunnels. They apparently have no problem in the dark:


(If I had killed the magician, I might have finished a quest; there’s a “man in grey robes” wandering aboveground that warns “RETURN TO ME THE STAFF OF THE EVIL SHIMMERING MAGICIAN, BUT DO NOT USE IT YOURSELF!”)

What makes the light source issue doubly frustrating is there are secret doors hidden in a very odd way.


In other words, hang around and looking over and over and eventually a secret door may just materialize. I presume the intended mimesis is that by using LOOK you are searching the room, like an old-school D&D adventurer.

On to winning–

If you read my last posts carefully, you might have noted I ran across a king who wanted me to rescue the princess, and I shortly thereafter was killed by a knave near a “young woman in soiled but expensive clothes”.

It’s apparently possible to luck out, because I randomly came across the same knave / woman pair while playing a new game and attacked them even though I didn’t have weapons. I killed the knave with a single karate chop.

At this point the princess was willing to follow me, so I headed back to the king (who I hadn’t even visited yet that game!) and this happened:


After that bounty of karma points, I took the diamond to the church and gave it for even more karma points (quite a few!) and decided it was time to go inside the church and pray:


The problem with having a game with so many generative elements and a flexible goal it is quite possible to squeeze through via luck. I reset the game and tried to kill the knave quite a few times without weapons and had no success.

The amount karma awarded is random; I tried going through the princess-rescuing sequence again (with a weapon this time) and even after donating the diamond and several more items to the church, I was only at 176 karma points. Praying at 176 karma did nothing.

Apparently even the maximum required score is random:

The purpose of the game is to accumulate “karma points”, which are necessary for the character to go directly to Heaven. The player is never informed how many karma points are needed, and the chosen number of points is another example of the game’s randomness as it changes from game to game; some games end nearly instantly due to a very low karma point goal being randomly chosen, while others can last for hours.

Other than not defeating the evil magician I never got by one other obstacle: a giant in the forest. I’m not sure if it’s meant as an obstacle to something greater or if it’s just another notch for your karma score.

I also found a very neat item I never was able to use: a bomb with a fuse. I’m curious what would happen if I tried it on the idol of Baal, but I never had a situation where I both was holding the bomb and found the idol.

Normally my sense of completion might be enough to find out for myself what I’m missing but the fact goals don’t even give a consistent score rather takes my motivation away. If anyone else is dying of curiosity, though, I first recommend you grab an emulator as opposed to playing online, because there’s a several-minute startup time for the random generation; you can set the emulator so it accelerates the process and takes only a couple seconds. Download for the game itself is here (there are two versions, they both seem to work fine).

While my description of gameplay may seem underwhelming, Lords of Karma does feel chock full of texture. There’s randomly placed items, characters that can follow you, monsters that can chase you, and a weird religion system which feels suitably mystical. It’s certainly a promising first effort, especially for an author who programmed his own adventure-creation system from scratch in 1978 technology.

Posted August 12, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

Tagged with