Sunday, July 7, 2019

Game 29: Lords of Karma (1978)

The cover of Avalon Hill's 1980 release

Lords of Karma is the first game from Gary Bedrosian, who will later create the well-regarded Empire of the Over-Mind and something called GFS Sorceress.  It was first created in 1978, and eventually published by Avalon Hill in 1980. (Avalon Hill is not a name I connect with video games. I know them much better as a purveyor of wargames, and it's weird to see them involved here.)  It was created to work on TRS-80, Apple II and Commodore PET, but I'm playing the TRS-80 version.

After reading over some articles it seems that Lords of Karma is going to a bit more forward-thinking than its contemporaries: rather than collecting treasures, my goal is to do good deeds and earn karma. With enough karma, I'll be able to ascend to heaven and win the game. I gather that a lot of this is randomised, and that the karma required to win is different with every game. I'm not so keen on the randomisation, but I am pretty happy to find a game with a goal that isn't a simple treasure hunt. I've had enough of those for a while.

Starting the game

You start the game in the central square of the city of Golconda, and can wander around pretty much anywhere from there.  For my first game, I left Golconda by the city gates and followed a path north to the Chapel of Prayer. I prayed there, and earned a point of karma. I decided to pray a second time, which caused me to faint. When I woke up I was in some underground tunnels, and I never found my way back out again. I did kill some sort of worm while I was down there though, and earned some karma for that.

Restarting, I decided to explore the overworld instead. Golconda is small, with just the Central Square, the Royal Palace, and a Market. In the Market you can find a brass farthing, a torch, and 6 matches.  (I haven't tried taking them, so I'm not sure if you need to buy them or not.)  If you enter the palace, the king tasks you with rescuing his daughter, and threatens to throw you in the dungeon if you return without her. I think I've found the princess, being ravished by a "knave" in the forest, but when I tried to save her the knave killed me.

Killed by a knave and reborn on a mountain.

Most of the overworld consists of different types of forests: redwood, pine, and aspen. There's a cyprus swamp to the southeast, and the land is bordered to the south by an ocean. It's all very sparsely described, and to get any sort of detail you need to type LOOK in every location, which can get a little tedious. The LOOK command tells you where you are, lists anything of interest, and gives you all of the exits from that area. It even lists the Up and Down exits, which I appreciate.  I've noticed, though, that some exits aren't always listed; the door to the Royal Palace is one that comes and goes, and there were secret doors when I was underground that only appeared sometimes.

The game has rudimentary combat, like many of the adventure games of the era. I haven't had a lot of success, aside from the worm that I killed in the underworld. So far I've been killed by a giant to the south-west, a crocodile and a spider in the south-eastern swamps, a wizard on a mountain, and the aforementioned knave a little to the west of Golconda. When you die you are reborn on a mountaintop to the north-east of Golconda. Dying doesn't seem to harm your karma score at all, although it does scatter your inventory around the map.

I've also encountered a beggar, and a grey-robed man carrying a crystal ball. When spoken to, the beggar asked for alms, and the robed man asked me to fetch him the wizard's staff. I've met that wizard and come off much the worse for it, so I'll skip this quest for a while.

Despite the goal of this game being to do good, there are treasures scattered around as well. I've found a topaz, a silver dollar, and an emerald. You don't get any karma just for picking them up, but giving them to the beggar might do so, and there's a suggestion that offering them at the Chapel of Prayer might do so as well.

I'm enjoying this so far, but I usually do in the initial stages of a game when I'm mostly exploring and mapping. I think that eventually the random elements of this game will get to me, especially because the map seems to be somewhat random as well. We'll see how it goes, but so far I like playing a game that's not quite so influenced by Adventure as the games surrounding it while still remaining accessible.


  1. I don't know if this was the first game from Gary Bedrosian. I found a review from 1979 of two other Bedrosian games, and later I found the actual games, with copyright 1978 and programmed in BASIC under NSDOS (North Star DOS, the operating system of the North Star floppy drive of his IMSAI computer).


    Games (images of the disks in "NS DOS"):

    Info on Bedrosian first computer:

    My own review and unsuccesful attemp of playing "The Magic Tower" (in spanish):

    1. Update:

      I finally managed to play the until now unknown Bedrosian game "The Magic Tower" (an rpg), the instructions are in my site if you want to try it.