My own personal experience with Elfhelm's Bane started when my mom bought me the Apple II C game in the mid-1980's. Elfhelm was superior to regular text adventures like Zork in that the game had a battle system with hit points, damage, and spells. It was like Dungeons and Dragons. In addition to the excellent character, monsters, spell, and battle system, the story itself and room descriptions were awesome. Although the game is clearly a parody of Lord of the Rings, Dungeons and Dragons, and other fantasy works, the death and violence are very real. As easy it is to say "it's tongue and cheek", once you start playing you see how serious your survival is.
As far as the history of Elfhelm's Bane goes, there used to be an old explanation up on The Strange Saga of The Realm of Angmar, Elfhelm's Bane, Swords of Chaos, Lords of Cyberspace, Galactic Conquest & The Muinet Entertainment BBS written by the Creator, Mark Peterson. However, that is now being blocked by a robots.txt file and is no longer accessible. That's a shame. I actually had e-mail correspondence with him (I think- it could have also been a fan who had direct contact with him; the e-mails were on my work e-mail, which I no longer have) a few years ago, and he managed to find the original discs and sent them to me in the mail. I believe he was shocked anyone remembered Elfhelm's Bane.
So as far as the history of Elfhelm goes, I'm forced to find third-hand sources on the net:
Mark Peterson was "hooked on Scepter of Goth" in 1984, and after running out of money playing Scepter he wrote his own. His first MUD, "The Realm of Angmar", was written in Pascal and began as a clone of Scepter of Goth, though soon he added his own ideas. This was ported to Unix, then to an Apple ][ in assembly language (renamed Angbar), rewritten in C on Xenix as "Angmar". It was then rewritten to run on DOS to be compatible with the MajorBBS (and other BBSs of the time) and renamed "Swords of Chaos", which for many years was a successful commercial MUD sold to various BBS operators until widespread Internet access eclipsed local BBS systems.
The Realm of Angmar, was written in Pascal by Mark Peterson in 1984 as a clone of the MUD game Sceptre of Goth. It was then ported to the Apple II assembly language and renamed Angbar due to concern of legal action by Tolkien Enterprises over copyright infringement over the name and then ported to the C programming language. It was released to the public and had some popularity but it was aUnix game and so it wasn't compatible with common bulletin board systems which were run on DOS. By 1994, Peterson had again rewritten the game to be compatible with DOS and renamed it to Swords of Chaos, again out of concern of legal action by Tolkien Enterprises. The game was distributed to BBS around the world until the growing popularity of the Internet caused a die off among BBS systems. Rights to the game were sold to a Canadian company named Vircom, which later sold it to Metropolis Gameport which still sells the game today. Mark Peterson also developed a game called The Mage Connection, which was a Magic: The Gathering type of game played over BBS, and a game called Lords of Cyberspace.
In other words, Elfhelm was born out of the the BBS and MUD culture of the late 1970's and early 1980's. Elfhelm in a way lives on in Swords of Chaos, but it's a multi-player game (Elfhelm was single player).
Let's see some other tidbits I remember from the Creator's history page:
The programmer didn't get paid a lot of for the game itself, either. There was some crazy royalty payment from Green Valley Publishing and Broderbund Software which resulted in the Creator getting paid chump change (literally).
There is an issue with the spelling: Angbar vs Angmar.
He wanted to program more games for the Apple (in fact in Elfhelm's Bane, if you move into certain areas the screen prompts you to insert those other game disks) but due to low sales, it never happened.
Based on the original history page, Elfelm's Bane is public domain now for a lot of reasons.
You can now play Elfhelm's Bane on your PC using these files:
Download Elfhelm's Bane two original disks:
NOTE, you need to copy one of the disks and rename it to "Character Disk". It takes 3 disks to play Elfhelm's Bane. (If using Windows, just right click and COPY and rename the file Master.dsk)
I will be working Elfhelm's Bane Guide. This blog is a page dedicated to OBSCURITY, and all fans of OBSCURITY.