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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Realm of Angbar: Elfhelm's Bane for the Apple

This is an Elfhelm's Bane fan site. This is a work in progress, since I have 1,460,000,323 other things that I am working on. Since Elfhelm Bane's fan audience is SO minuscule, and there is NO demand for new fans to play Elfhelm's Bane, it makes no sense for me to even invest a minute into a blog talking about Elfhelm's Bane. Yet we as humans as illogical. So here I am.

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.


  1. OMG - Someone else who thinks Elfhelm's Bane is the greatest game ever! Checking this out now. Thanks so much for doing this!


  2. Hey, look! I'm famous: those were my disks of Elfhelm's Bane I sent through the mail. We're a tiny group, we fans of Elfhelm's Bane, but we've got to stick together! :D

  3. OMG... this is awesome! I loved this game.

  4. Thank you so much for this!! Elfhelm's Bane was the first computer game that I ever played, and I absolutely loved it.

    Growing up in a small Nebraska town in the '80s, I had almost no exposure to personal computers in high school: My Physics teacher brought his home computer to class for one day during my Senior year, telling us that some people disapproved as it had nothing to do with the curriculum but he thought it was criminal that we weren't being introduced to computers in school!

    Oh, I had gone through a phase of electronic gaming by way of arcade games and the Atari 2600, but I quickly burned out on that. My real passion was Dungeons and Dragons "pen and paper" gaming.

    A year or two later (it must have been around '87 or so) I was over at a friend's place one summer afternoon and he showed me his Apple II. At first I was unimpressed ("what do you do with the thing, exactly?") but he knew I was a D&D nut so he started up Elfhelm's Bane. I was mesmerized.

    After he got me started, he said something about getting ready to have some other friends over later that evening, I think. After that, I have a vague recollection of people entering the room now and then.

    Eventually my girlfriend (now wife) tracked me down. When she told me it was almost 9:00 I was shocked - I'd been playing for almost eight hours straight.

    She just stared at me.

    "Jeff, the sun is behind you. It's nine in the morning!!"

    She dragged me out of there past people passed out all over the house. Apparently, there had been quite a party there during the previous night! She was mad at me - but not too mad, as there were a lot of girls there and I had been oblivious to the whole thing.

    After that, I came over every day to play. That lasted for a week or two, then I arrived to the sad announcement that beer had been spilled on the disks during another party, and they were ruined. (In hindsight, I suspect that his room mate had grown tired of having me constantly camped out there on the computer and staged the accident. Can't say as I blame him.)

    I tried to find another copy but of course none of the local towns had a store that carried anything like that, and Lincoln was two hours away. Eventually I bought my first computer - a PC - and started playing other games. Elfhelm's Bane was partially replaced, though not forgotten.

    Once I got online, I searched for the game, and couldn't even find a mention of it. I tried again once or twice in the next few years, then gave up. Then, on a whim I googled it yesterday and found the wiki and blog. Of course I made up a character and started playing right away. (-:

    It's amazing to be able to experience the game again. And now I can show my fourteen-year-old. He's a modern gamer, but willing to play "old school" stuff with Dad sometimes - he even runs an occasional D&D session for us using the '81 B/X rules!

    So once again, thank you for all the work you've done on the blog and wiki! The instructions have been very helpful in getting the game up and running (I've never used an Apple emulator before), and it was awesome to get to read the story behind the game. You've made this fellow Elfhelm's Bane fan very happy.

  5. Thank you for your story, Jeffrey. I appreciate the happiness that you had for this obscure game. My Apple IIC lasted until the early 1990s and then I finally got the emulator as the WWW exploded.

    I play nice long sessions for a week every year or so.

    I manage to kill the unique characters in the game and get all of the weird treasure. Even at high levels, some monsters could be quite a challenge. Eventually it becomes a grind after Level 20 or so, but it is great to explore, map, and list. Then the next year, I roll up a different character class.

    I respect the game design, even though the creator kinda looks down upon his early creation and did not make money from it. And even though there are not any clones of it. I like the random encounters based on each room, and the random item drops. The writing is very funny, and the monster names are fantastic.

    1. Thank you for the reply. (-:

      I was able to sit down and play for a few hours this morning and enjoyed it very much. I was worried as to how the Elfhelm's Bane experience would go, now that I've spent so many years playing newer games, but it was great!

      I agree completely that the random encounters and funny writing style add a great deal to the game. (I remember completely cracking up the first time I saw "You see a deer. It looks mean.")

      I got to show the game to my son and his friends this afternoon. He wants to try it, but the other guys didn't know what to make the whole thing. I'm pretty sure they thought it was all some kind of elaborate hoax - especially when I talked about not having a hard drive and swapping floppies. (-:

  6. Wow this is very cool that I stumbled upon this blog. Although I never did play Elfhelm's Bane, I am a huge Swords of Chaos player.

    In fact over the last year or so I became distraught over the increasing difficulty in finding an active SoC game that I decided to do something about it once and for all. I've created a dedicated BBS for Swords of Chaos called the Swords of Chaos FOREVER! BBS. The name is intentional as I am committed to it being available forever for all of the incredibly dedicated SoC players out there. There is just something about Mark Peterson's games that tend to draw those types of followings.


    You can play directly through the web or connect through telnet port 23:

    As of now we are proudly the most active SoC community in the world. Also we are in the process of rewriting SoC and bringing it up to date. After reading this blog I have an interest in maybe rewriting Elfhelm's Bane for its player community as well.

    Anyway thanks for this and I hope to talk to some of you soon.

    1. By the way, the "Strange Saga" writing by Mark Peterson can always be found here:


  7. Instruction on how you can get The Realm of Angbar - Elfhelm's Bane up and running on any Windows machine: http://www.soc4ever.com/angbar.html

  8. hello to everyone, i came across this blog by searching for the game on the net. i am a collector and if anyone has a selling copy let me know! have fun

  9. I have the game packaged on my website http://www.soc4ever.com

  10. OK, I wrote the game in question and I certainly never considered it worthy of anything like a shrine, so imagine my surprise when I Googled up this page :-)

    Many thanks for your efforts and the trip down memory lane, it was a hoot!

    Oh, and for those who may be interested in ancient gaming history, my updated "Saga" article is now located here - http://www.spookshow.net/muinet.html

    1. Thank you, Mark.

      "Gumby hath no mercy."

    2. It's just too bad I didn't squirrel away those old unreleased Angbar adventure discs someplace (not to mention all the video games that I wrote for Share Data). But who would've predicted that Apple II emulators would ever become a thing? Not me, that's for sure!

    3. Ah, that is interesting. I always wondered if you programmed the other adventures.

      Thank you for providing players countless hours with Elfhelm's Bane.

      Sadly, there is a group of Elfhelm heretics who attack you and the game here: http://crpgaddict.blogspot.com/2016/09/game-229-realm-of-angbar-elfhelms-bane.html

    4. It's mostly fair criticism, especially if one approaches the game from a "solo adventurer" standpoint (y'know, "solve the puzzle, kill the boss, win the game, get patted on the head"). And in retrospect I do think it would've been a better game had it included some obvious and achievable goals. But being only 21 at the time, my experience as a game designer was pretty limited.

      As far as the simplicity of the game goes, that was Share Data's schtick - cheap and simple software for people of limited computer literacy. You just Load'N'Go! Whee! :-)

      The author does go astray by speculating that Elfhelm's Bane was somehow inspired by Eamon. It is in fact based on a mainframe game ("The Realm of Angmar") that I'd written in 1984. And Angmar was 100% inspired by a multiuser D&D game called "The Scepter of Goth" that ran in the Twin Cities on a BBS called GamBit.

      I don't really remember anything about Eamon or if I was at all involved in coding the Apple II version that was sold by Share Data, although it's certainly possible that I was. Basically they tossed random programs onto our desks, assured us that they were public domain, and then had us gussy them up for commercial release. But, if Eamon wasn't public domain software, it's certainly not something that I was ever made aware of. Frankly, I had little interest in (or knowledge of) Apple II games back then (being more of a BBS guy).

    5. My greatest respect for this game.
      You will be surprised on the interest people have these days for old games.and the ammount of money they are willing to spend. Your game is one of the 3 i am missing from the 80s! I am looking for it for years now. ebay might do me the honour some day! Cheers!

    6. Thanks Kostas, that's very kind of you to say. Best of luck finding a copy, I just wish that I'd saved a few from back then! :-/

  11. hi again. after only a few months i think i found a copy!
    can you please verify what the hell did i buy? it's a strange plastic case from a Load'N'Go software. does that ring a bell?
    is this the original packaging?

    i cant upload an image for you so i will post a link of the ebay item. but i am not sure if this will be available when you see the message. but if we can communicate in another way please i would like to show it to you.


    1. Hi Kostas,

      That is indeed the original game and packaging.

    2. Amazing! That was a game that i never expected to find on ebay.
      Guys anyone interested i maintain a nice small facebook group dedicated to western origin rpg enthusiasts.
      The name is WRPGs addicts



  12. Last question.
    In the facebook group i mentioned we are much interesed in history. I would like to did as much information as i can.
    Does anybody know how much did it sold?
    If its developer is interested please join!

    1. I'm not sure what you mean by "how much did it sold", but I can tell you this - the retail price was $5 and only a few hundred copies were sold (or so I assume, given the miniscule royalties I received). Congrats on finding one! :-)


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