Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Game 161: The Stone of Telnyr (1990)

The game is called Telnyr I - The Stone of Telnyr or Telnyr Part I in most online databases, but on all screens in the game, it's just The Stone of Telnyr.

The Stone of Telnyr
Peter R. Boothman (developer); Brunswick Publications (publisher)
Released 1990 for Commodore 64
Date Started: 24 August 2014
Date Ended: 24 August 2014
Total Hours: 4
Difficulty: Easy-Moderate (2.5/5)
Final Rating: 15
Ranking at Time of Posting: 14/158 (9%)

The Stone of Telnyr, an independent title from an Australian developer, published in a disk magazine, may be the most obscure game I've played since beginning this blog. Except for its appearance in the GameBase64 database (whence I downloaded it), all references to it online are placeholders on gaming sites awaiting content (which I hate, by the way). I cannot find any information about the author, Peter R. Boothman. The publisher, Brunswick Publications, seems to have existed only for this game. And yet someone found it valuable enough to "crack" it--my download starts with an obnoxious splash screen from the team that accomplished this bold feat--and Boothman kept working on the series, churning out two or three sequels, each more obscure than the first one. It's odd to find such a mystery, even among independent games, so deep in the Golden Age.

The game begins. I guess the land's major problem is an inability to cross those mountains.
The back story, told in a file on the disk, is relatively goofy. I found it after winning the game (I autoloaded the program at first and didn't think to check the disk file for documents). In-game, the world appears to be just a high fantasy kingdom whose denizens want you to recover a magic stone from a dungeon. No fuss, no frills. The actual back story, however, presents Telnyr as a hidden island in the southwest Pacific Ocean, where a "freak combination of magnetic forces has created a virtually impenetrable area," keeping ships and planes from approaching it or even seeing it. (One wonders if J. J. Abrams played this game before creating Lost.) The mages of the island have an ability to suck in individuals from the real world to help with problems--much like Lord British does in Ultima--and they have recently done so as part of a quest to find the Stone of Telnyr and restore peace to an island overrun by monsters.

In basic gameplay and look and feel, Telnyr takes obvious inspiration from Ultima, but with far fewer features and a much smaller game world. Character creation consists only of assigning a name, after which the character appears in the wilderness, just north of the city of Telnyr, with 250 hit points, 30 gold, and 50 food. Food decreases by 10 every 100 steps, so just like Ultima, an early game goal is to get food stores up to a sustainable level.
I approach the island's one dungeon. I have a good complement of hit points, gold, and food, and I have the best weapon int he game.

The game is tiny, consisting of a relatively small island with one menu city (Telnyr), a mage's tower, and a dungeon. The dungeon is itself very small and completely linear. You could walk from the starting position to the endgame in something like 200 steps. Despite the size, it takes considerable time to actually win Telnyr, as the dungeon is extremely deadly and you have to grind your character to appropriate strength on wilderness creatures before braving its depths.

The only city is just a "menu town."

There are no levels in the game, and killing creatures does not reward you with experience. Everything depends on gold, which you use to buy progressively better weapons, to buy a stock of spells, and to rest at the inn--the only mechanism for increasing hit points, which increase of 5-15 for a 10-gold-piece stay.

Spells--which can only be cast in combat--are sold at the nearby mage's tower. There are four of them: "Confuse," "Strength," "Healing," and "Banish." "Banish" completely kills an enemy party, so it's naturally the most expensive, going for 100 gold a pop. "Strength" doubles your attack damage for the duration of combat. The other two have questionable value. "Healing," like all the other spells, can only be cast in combat, and you often lose more hit points during the round than you heal. I never saw the effects of "Confuse."

Casting a spell in combat. Spells serve as the game's only real "inventory."

The mage's tower also offers the ability to talk to the mage, where you learn about the main quest to recover the Stone of Telnyr from the dungeon.

The main quest.
Monsters are mostly unoriginal: orcs, rogues, robbers in the outdoors and ghosts, demons, giant bats, and giant spiders in the dungeon. They vary only in how hard they hit; there are no special attacks and enemies don't have spells.
Combat lies somewhere between Ultima and Phantasie in sophistication. You're taken to a separate screen with your enemies arrayed in front of you. You have options to (M)anually attack them one at a time, (A)uto attack repeatedly until one of you is dead, (C)ast a spell, (R)un away, or (G)ive gold to bribe them into leaving you alone.

Fighting some orcs.

Slain enemies drop gold, food, and spells, with an average value of around 20 gold pieces per combat, at least in the outdoor area. It takes a while to amass the 2000-3000 gold pieces you need to get a good complement of hit points, spells, food, and the best weapon (a crossbow) for the endgame.

The game's one interesting innovation is in the "library" in Telnyr, where you can read three tomes for 10, 100, and 200 gold pieces. The tomes reveal the coordinates of buried treasure that you can find with the sextant (40 gold pieces in the weapon shop). These treasure caches consist of various gold and spells that help propel you to the next level in your development.

Learning about the location of buried treasure . . .

. . . and finding it!

Once you can survive at least a couple of battles in the dungeon, character development becomes a little easier, as you find gold, spells, and food randomly on the dungeon floor. But whether in the dungeon or outdoors, it is easy to occasionally find yourself "backsliding"--losing more hit points in combat than the gold from the combat will replenish.

Inside the dungeon. Those yellow circles are caches of gold.

At first, I thought I'd be grinding for many hours to develop the character enough to take on the dungeon, but since the game offers no save feature, I figured it must be winnable in a smaller time frame than I was anticipating. It turns out that the stone is just sitting there at the end of the (short) dungeon maze, with no final battle in front of it, so you really just have to survive the 8-12 random battles that appear in the maze before the stone. This can be achieved with the right combination of "Banish" spells--which kill every enemy instantly at the beginning of combat--running away, and bribing. This is the only game in which I've considered those latter two options as viable role-playing decisions, but sometimes you just have to keep your eyes on the prize.

320 gold would allow me to rest and heal about 320 hit points. Each of these enemies is capable of doing about 75 hit points of damage to me before the end of the combat. Since 75 x 6 = 450 > 320, it makes sense mathematically.

When you grab the Stone of Telnyr, the game world dissolves:

The final screen recounts that you've been teleported back to the mage's castle and that the Stone's "teleporting powers will enable us to cross the mountains and trade with our neighbours." Isn't that the cutest main quest you've ever heard of? There's no Armageddon imminent, no evil wizard looking to rule the world--just a desire to stop being so isolated.

Approaching the end of my quest.

Anyway, the endgame screen seems to suggest that Telnyr I is just a prologue/demonstration project for a more extended game with a "huge playing area, sound effects, more spells, etc." More on this below.

The "winning" screen/second game announcement.

The best I can do on the GIMLET is a 15. It earns something in every category except NPCs, but the game really offers the minimal amount necessary in each category to be considered an RPG at all: character development consisting only of increased hit points; a selection of a few weapons and spells in the "equipment" category; less than 10 monster types and fairly rote combat. It does best (3) in the "economy" category, since everything is dependent on gold.

Still, it's a promising start for an independent developer. I fired up Telnyr II for a few minutes just to see if it lives up to the author's promises, and it does have a couple more spells ("Kill," "Teleport," "Revive"), multiple dungeons (some of which require keys to enter), potions, the ability to cast spells outside of combat, and other more advanced RPG features. Unfortunately, it looks like the one character creation option--the name--has been taken away, with every PC called "Nova."

Telnyr II has more elements and a different look and feel.

Let's talk a little about the sequels. The same database where I downloaded this game also has Telnyr II - The Golden Chalice and Telnyr III - The Four Runes. A file dated 1995 and inserted by the "crack team" on the first disk also alludes to a Telnyr IV. A throwaway line in one instruction file suggests that the games may have been offered via Loadstar, a Commodore 64 disk magazine based out of Louisiana.

The copyright date on the main screen of I is 1990 and the date on the main screen of III is 2000. Even though the C64 was essentially dead by 2000, the latter date is possible, as Loadstar continued to be published well into the 2000s. But the game is referenced in the 1995 file, and it seems unlikely that it would have been announced 5 years before its release, so I suspect the 2000 date on III is an aberration or an update. As for II, I can't find a whit of information about when it was published. There is no date on the copyright screen, in the disk documents, or on any online site that I can find. I've tentatively listed it as 1995--halfway between I and III--but since I suspect the III date is wrong, I think this is probably too late. As for IV, I can't find a single mention of it except on the "want list" of a Hungarian web site.

(The GameBase64 site indicates that Telnyr I was published in Loadstar #191 and the two sequels followed in 192 and 193. I haven't been able to find a full magazine index, but based on the few issue numbers and dates that I can find, it would appear that issues 191-193 wouldn't have been out until 2002, so something is wrong there.)

Given the relative sophistication of this game and the third one, I suspect Mr. Boothman released Telnyr just to prove that he could do it and see if there was any interest before tackling a more complex game. I look forward to trying his other offerings, and I hope I can eventually track him down and clear up some of these issues.

Speaking of series with promising sequels, the next game on the list is Warriors of Ras, Vol. 2: Kaiv. I thought the first game was promising, but lacking in a lot of RPG elements that apparently make an appearance in Vol. 2.

And I am still working on Captive. I've destroyed two more bases since my last post, but there just isn't a lot to blog about. I'll try to get another post out soon.


  1. I think we should be able to get the correct dates for Telnyr 2 and 3, but it will take some volunteers and some time. Anyone interested?

    Here is a partial set of load star disk images: http://www.mmnt.net/db/0/0/arnold.c64.org/pub/magazines/LoadStar

    We'd need to download each one and load "*" on each in a C64 emulator to see the menus. There might be a better way to do it. ("strings", for example, seems to work but I do not clearly see a menu) If we find the one that has Telnyr 2 or 3 on it, we can get the correct release dates.

    Sadly, since that is not a complete set then it could be all for nothing.

    Next best option seems to be to buy a CD of them that someone is selling that professes to be a complete set. (http://www.ramblehouse.com/loadstarcompleat.htm) It's $24 and if someone can get the guy's email address, he might be willing to donate one for the cause... but it's too rich for my blood.

    I suspect there is some document there that tells which games are on which disk images, but barring that then the same process would apply.

    There is a related publication called "Loadstar Letter" which you can read on Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/loadstarletter) and it is possible that one of the issues mentions Telnyr 2/3 and that would give us a better date, but I manually searched around 10 issues over the full publication period and it never showed up in any of the ads or game lists. Bit of a long shot as I suspect that Telnyr did not make their "best of" collections.

    Not that I think it matters so much to get the year, but this seems like a fun challenge...

    I'm going to pop an email to the guy that sells the CD collection and see if he has a list of what is on what disks...

    1. Based on the comment below and the rest of the evidence, I think we can regard the Loadstar publications as having occurred after the games' initial releases.

    2. You just like to take away all my fun. :)

      Fine. I will just go back to playing "Secret of the Silver Blades" instead in preparation for your adventure in a week or two. Not a bad game so far, but a bit sparse in places.

  2. The loadstar publications of the Telnyr trilogy indeed appeared in issues 191, 192, and 193. Based on the copyright notes in those disk magazines, they came out in year 2000. Downloads are at ftp://cbm8bit.com/coverdisks/loadstar/. I would suggest getting the unified .zip file instead of the multiple disk sides, to avoid disk swapping fun. That gives a .d81 file; set VICE emulator to have a 1581 drive and autostart it. That should get you into the loadstar menu, where you can read the documentation and launch the games under "funware". The games themselves must have existed for some time before that, apparently without formal publication.

    1. Thanks for confirming that, and for finding this index. This confuses the timeline even more. It's hard to believe that Boothman wrote the game in 1990 and waited 10 years to publish it through a diskmag, especially where the "crack" notice in the first game has a "copyright" of 1995 and references the other three games.

      So my guess is Boothman wrote them all before 1995, distributed them as freeware for years, and then offered them for Loadstar publication in the 2000s. I guess I'll move Telnyr 2 to 1992 and Telnyr 3 to 1994, which represent my best estimates based on all the evidence.

  3. The author Peter Boothman was a Jazz musician of enough reknown to have a wikipedia page : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Boothman. He died in 2012. How do I know this is the same fellow? Right name, right city (Belmore suburb of Sydney). And from his facebook page : "In the 1990s designed and programmed various games and graphics utilities for the Commodore 64 computer, most of which were published & distributed locally & in the USA and UK."

    1. I saw his Wikipedia page but I wasn't sure it was the same person. That last bit was the connection that I was lacking. Thanks for finding that, sad as it is.

    2. Chet, can you recall if there was any other rpg prior to this with an Australian developer? I don't remember Australia getting a mention in your blog previous to this. I'm not particularly patriotic, but it'd be interesting trivia.

      The only Australian developed RPG I know (and it's scarcely an rpg) is Fallout: Tactics, a somewhat maligned spinoff.

      I guess one might exist in your expanded list that predates 1990.

    3. Well, I just checked, and there are only 10 RPGs on my entire list that have the developer's country as Australia. Three of them are the Telnyr series, three are by Beam, and three are by Silver Lightning.

      This isn't the first one. The first is Doc the Destroyer by Beam, published by Melbourne House in 1987. I didn't play it on my first pass because it only had C64 and ZX releases.

      But this is the first one I've PLAYED. It didn't feel uniquely Australian.

  4. Confuse makes enemies lose turns, I think 4?

    It was interesting that the enemies don't mob you, but attack one at a time, so it's a series of duels. If you can kill each enemy in one attack, and provided you don't miss, you could hope to exit a battle with many enemies unscathed. So, confuse can be useful if you need 4 turns to kill two enemies, and strength is useful if you want to kill quicker, so on.

    I might be wrong about any of the above, I didn't pay *that* much attention to beat it.

    1. I probably could have discussed that aspect of combat in more detail, but like you, I wasn't 100% sure that I had it right. I guess your PC always goes first and, yes, attacks the enemies one at a time. Towards the end of the game, against 6 "rogues," I might easily complete the combat without them getting in a single hit.

      The dungeon creatures are tough enough that they can almost always strike you once or twice no matter what weapon you have.

      According to the manual "Confuse" makes the enemies less likely to hit. Obviously, that's a tough thing to assess without seeing the combat rolls. "Banish" is so obviously the better spell that it's worth saving for one of those instead of three "Confuses."

  5. Considering the graphical quality of c64 games at the 90's (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Defender_of_the_Crown was released as early as -86) that game looks like a throwback to early days.

    1. Independent games tend to look about 5-7 years older that the current state of the technology.

  6. Reminds me of another 1990 Ultima-like for the Apple II: Wraith. While the game itself is obscure, the author (John Carmack) is a bit better known.

    1. More games for the Addict ;-). Not only Wraith, but also Shadowforge, a 1989 game, and also an Ultima clone, judging from this video:


    2. Wow, these are about as Ultima II clone-y as you can get.

    3. It's funny how Wizardry clones were usually trying to do something differently, while Ultima ones only tried to imitate the original as close as possible.

    4. It seems that around 1989/90 the Ultima series definitely ascended to "legendary" status, with all those clones.

  7. Its great that you're covering games from other platforms now. If you really want to cover RPGs you should check Gamebase64 in the "Adventure 2D" category.

    You'll notice quite a few Ultima-a-like games including Darkon (written by the musician Dio son Daniel Padavona), The Examination, Spirit of the Adventure, Omus Saga (trilogy), Two Vikings, etc.

    Here is a link

  8. I have been peeking ahead. I figure that the best favor we could do for you is find games for you NOT to play from your list, but sadly I failed in that. But a few notes for you anyway:

    Adventure (as well as Adventure 2, 3, and 4) seem to have been released at least prior to Dec 1982. The first advertisement I can find is Dec '82 and that is for a combo pack with all four games so it must be dated prior to that. I am finding the Spectrum emulators to be very picky and I can only get some games working when I select the NTSC version of the 48K.

    I searched strings in Adventure and one of the lines of text in the game is "The fucker has to smell you out." and I am fairly certain that is worth bonus points right there.

    "Secret Valley" and "Cells and Serpents" both appear to be proto-RPGs and the latter is not that bad, sort of a RPG and "Hunt the Wumpus" hybrid. On the upshot, I do not think either have main quests so you can be done with them quickly...

    1. Wumpicide sounds like a perfectly adequate main quest for an early '80s Speccy game. It worked for Wizard's Castle.

    2. Was there much for documentation for this and the sequel games?

    3. "The fucker has to smell you out."? Dafuq?

  9. I guess here is as good as any place to start... I found links...


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