Thursday, April 23, 2009

The Scepter of Kzirgla

Okay, folks, this is one primitive, obscure Rogue-like title I'm dragging out of the deep memory banks.

The Scepter of Kzirgla was a simple dungeon crawler that I played on the TRS-80 Color Computer back in the early 1980's. It was written by Paul Penrose for Rainbow Connection Software, and sold the old-fashioned way, via mail order on a cassette tape in a poly bag with photocopied instructions. There was a sequel, Conquest of Kzirgla, which I never played, and apparently also a version released for the TI-99/4A, something I only learned today via a Google search. Neither of these systems was tremendously successful, so whatever your retro platform of choice, chances are you have NOT played this one. I can pretty safely bet it will not be showing up on the Virtual Console or XBLA, either.

I have not played or seen the game in a couple of decades, so I am going from vaguest memory here. The game featured randomly generated dungeon mazes and played a bit like Epyx's "Apshai" series, although the CoCo version had very simple single-screen, character-mode block graphics rather than the animated monsters and scrolling dungeons of the Epyx games. Basically, the player entered the map at one point on the screen and had to fight his or her way through, RPG-style, to find another point on the screen, representing an exit to the next, deeper level of the dungeon. There were some rudimentary stats and economics, if I recall correctly, and the monsters got tougher as you progressed. I don't remember what happened if the player character died, though I'm pretty sure there was an ending of some sort -- a drawing of a treasure chest, or something like that. I really don't remember.

What I do remember is that the game was written in Extended BASIC, which meant the source code was completely accessible after loading and so could be experimented with. My brother and I noticed that weapons would eventually break with use, which would result in a tremendously ugly "THUUUNNNNGGG" sound effect and the message, "THE [WEAPON] BROKE!" The player could be reduced to fighting with bare hands, so naturally we were anticipating silly computer hilarity -- but there was a logic check in the code to prevent the obvious from happening, until I disabled it.

And then...



That was absolutely hilarious!

For a few minutes.

I guess.

Sigh. Like so much of retro gaming, you really DID have to be there.


  1. Hey Dale, did you ever play Ultima? If so, how about an Ultima blog post someday? My husband was a big Ultima geek... lol

  2. This is kind of embarrassing - I've only really played Ultima II in one of its cartridge incarnations, and didn't get too far into it. I've played old-school RPG's like Wizardry and Phantasie and Final Fantasy, and later ones like Dungeon Master and Eye of the Beholder, but I somehow have neglected Richard Garriott's legendary Ultima series. Maybe I need to start exploring some of the classics I just missed the first time around. I will put Ultima at the top of my list.

  3. Oh my God. I thought my friends and I were the only ones who ever enabled the ability to break your hands in this game. We got HOURS of laughter out of this (man, that sound effect was grating), and it's something I hadn't thought about until I found your blog when I searched for "Scepter of Kzirgla" in Google. I never knew they made a sequel...I'll have to track that down. Thank you so, so, so much for making me laugh so hard over such a great memory from my youth!


  4. Thank YOU for getting the reference! I'm thoroughly and happily gobsmacked to know that somebody else shares the same weird memory about this obscure old game. Made me laugh about it all over again too.

  5. Where oh where can I find this game to emulate? If even possible!?

    1. There are several decent CoCo emulators out there, but I've tried to find this one a few times with no luck.