Dungeon Master (video game)

Dungeon Master
Dungeon Master Box Art.jpg
Developer(s)FTL Games
Victor Interactive Software (X68000)[1]
Publisher(s)FTL Games
Victor Interactive Software (X68000)[1]
Director(s)Doug Bell
Producer(s)Wayne Holder
Designer(s)Doug Bell
Programmer(s)Doug Bell
Dennis Walker
Mike Newton
Artist(s)Andrew Jaros
Composer(s)Wayne Holder[2]
Platform(s)Amiga, Apple IIGS,[3] Atari ST, MS-DOS (x86), SNES, TurboGrafx-CD, Sharp X68000, PC-9801, FM Towns
Genre(s)Role-playing video game
Mode(s)Single player

Dungeon Master is a realtime role-playing video game featuring a pseudo-3D first-person perspective. It was developed and published by FTL Games for the Atari ST in 1987,[5] almost identical Amiga and PC (DOS) ports following in 1988 and 1992.

Dungeon Master reportedly sold 40,000 copies in its year of release alone,[6] and went on to become the ST's best-selling game of all time. The game became the prototype for the genre of the 3D dungeon crawlers with notable clones like Eye of the Beholder.[7]


Dungeon Master gameplay screenshot on SNES

In contrast to the traditional turn-based approach that was, in 1987, most common, Dungeon Master added real-time combat elements (akin to Active Time Battle).[8] Other factors in immersion were the use of sound effects to indicate when a creature was nearby, and (primitive) dynamic lighting. Abstract Dungeons and Dragons style experience points and levels were eschewed in favor of a system where the characters' skills were improved directly via using them. Dungeon Master was not the first game to introduce these features. Dungeons of Daggorath for the TRS-80 Color Computer first employed them in 1982. Dungeon Master was, however, responsible for popularizing these elements. Other features of Dungeon Master included allowing players to directly manipulate objects and the environment by clicking the mouse in the enlarged first-person view.[9] It also introduced some novel control methods including the spell casting system, which involved learning sequences of runes which represented the form and function of a spell's effect. For example, a fireball spell was created by mixing the fire symbol with the wing symbol. This kind of attention to detail and focus on the user interface was typical of the game and helped create an often captivating sense of craft and ingenuity.

While many previous games such as Alternate Reality: The Dungeon, The Bard's Tale, Ultima, and Wizardry offered Dungeons & Dragons-style role-playing, Dungeon Master established several new standards for role-playing video games and first-person video games in general,[9] such as the paper doll interface.

Another factor in its popularity may have been the imaginative mythology, with players often reporting a nurturing identity with their chosen characters. Nancy Holder, wife of producer Wayne Holder, wrote the storyline in the manual (from a base scenario suggested by Michael Newton and the FTL team). She is a successful novelist, and has written for television series including Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and Smallville.

Many reviewers considered Dungeon Master as the best example of its genre, despite the many clones that arrived to challenge it. First of these was Bloodwych (1989), featuring similar gameplay but adding a mode allowing two simultaneous players on one machine. Other notable clones included Captive and Eye of the Beholder.[7]


Many champions have been sent into the dungeon with the quest to recover Librasulus (the Grey Lord) firestaff. With the firestaff, Librasulus can take physical form again and defeat Lord Chaos. The player is Theron, the apprentice of the Grey Lord, that goes into the dungeon with the task to resurrect four champions, and guide them through the dungeon, to find the firestaff and defeat Lord Chaos.

Hall of Champions

As Theron, the player cannot progress past the first section of the game until they have selected up to four champions from a small dungeon containing 24 mirrors, each containing a frozen champion. The frozen champions are based upon a variety of fantasy archetypes to allow diversity within the player's party.[10]

Alternative ending

If the player finds the firestaff and uses it to defeat Lord Chaos, this will be the real ending of the game. But there is also an alternative ending if the player finds the firestaff and then leaves the dungeon without destroying Lord Chaos.

Kid's dungeon

You can access a small, simple dungeon by holding a key or 2 during the loading screen when the FTL logo appears (The keys vary each version e.g. Amiga is Enter), the Kid's dungeon's mobs are very weak and the game ends after you slay the dragon, in the 'Dragon's den'. The dragon takes merely a single FUL bomb to kill. (Said item is a portable version of a fireball, the same way VEN potions are of the poison cloud spell. FUL bombs unlike VEN potions cannot be created though game documentation suggests they were intended to be able to.)