While playing ZTK, I’ve been reminded of an earlier – much earlier – game for the Apple. It may, perhaps, be the first “Rogue”, or possibly the precursor of it. The game was called Beneath Apple Manor.

BAM came out in 1978 (!), although I didn’t pick it up until three or four years later (I didn’t have a computer in ’78; but that does show how long games tended to hang around back then). It could run in as little as 16K, although 32+ was recommended.

Obviously, that meant a very stripped-down production, and BAM was definitely “no frills”. The graphics were ASCII, of course. But you could run it in either black & white or color. In the color version, the characters were replaced by colored blocks.

And there were only five monster types: green slimes, ghosts, trolls, purple worms, and red dragons. No surprise, the deeper you went, the tougher the critters became. You had some control over that, however.

In each new game, you set parameters for number of rooms per level (5 being recommended; hey, no frills, remember?), color or black & white, and the difficulty factor, which ranged from 1-10, with 5 being average.

BAM had no classes or races, just a generic character with four stats: strength, intelligence, dexterity, and body, and they started at 20. There were also four spells: Zap, Heal, X-ray, and Teleport.

The goal was to find the fabled Golden Apple in the horde of red dragon, somewhere far below. This, I can tell you, was tricky. Because there were false Apples, too, which would blow up in your face if you took them – and there was no way to tell the real from the false. Except the hard way.

Dungeon levels were created on the fly as you went deeper, but this was a one-way trip. The only “up” was at the main staircase. Here you could buy weapons and armor (tiny selection), trade your experience for stat points at 10 for 1, and most important, buy a brain scan. In a later time, that would be called “saving the game”. And you only had one scan; each later one overwrote the earlier.

You didn’t want to rely on just that one save, either. Each time you used the same scan, your stats were permanently reduced by 10%. So after a resurrection, your first priority was getting some experience and buying a new scan.

Where BAM departed from Rogue-likes and just about every other RPG game, was in its temporary stat reduction. The magic spells didn’t use mana; they reduced your Intelligence. For example, the Heal spell returned one-tenth of intelligence in hit points, and reduced Int by a like amount.

In the same way, physically attacking a monster reduced strength, while running halved your dexterity. These reductions were restored by resting – and hoping no wandering monster showed up in the meantime.

Yeah, in its own way, BAM could be just as mean as any Rogue-like. Especially since the brain scan was good only for the current game. Quit, and the game was over. Then again, a typical game was expected to last about four hours. Of course, it could also be longer, if you specified more rooms. Or died a lot. Funny, that part hasn’t changed in all these years ;)