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The Wide World of Eamon
by Tom Zuchowski
A HISTORY OF EAMON
Crowther and Woods’ original
Adventure, a text-only game program originally written for the DEC PDP-10 in
the 1970s, has been widely imitated. Microsoft released a version of
Adventure for the Apple II in 1979, and many similar games followed from
Scott Adams, Infocom, and other publishers. (See "Classic Adventuring" in the
last issue of II Alive.) In the early 1980s, Don Brown, spurred by the success
of these games and intrigued by the possibility of creating his own, developed
the Eamon adventure system. Now ordinary Applesoft BASIC programmers could make
their own adventure games, using the Eamon software Brown had developed as a
The Eamon system was immediately and
enthusiastically embraced by a small band of players in the Des Moines area,
where Brown lived. But Brown himself soon moved on to commercial programming,
creating the SwordThrust adventure series. John Nelson, another Des Moines
resident, saved Eamon from oblivion, founding the National Eamon User’s Club and
bringing the program through five major revisions.
While Nelson later moved on to the IBM
PC, the Eamon Adventurer’s Guild, which was the eventual replacement for the
National Eamon User’s Club, is still going strong today—as is Eamon itself.
Eamon version 7.0 incorporates new commands, an improved player interface, and
assembly-language additions for enhanced performance. Today, there are over 220
Eamon adventures available that run under DOS 3.3 (requiring a 5.25" disk drive
to run). The best 100-odd Eamons have been converted to ProDOS, and nearly 40 of
the very best were further modernized, converting them to 80-column display and
adding upper and lower case text.
INSIDE EAMON GAMING
Eamon is not a role-playing system, like
Wizardry or Might and Magic. There are no experience points to earn, no levels
to attain. There are no special abilities bestowed by race or good/evil
alignment. There are also no graphics—the player reads descriptions of what he
"sees" and types commands in response; descriptions of the results are printed
on the screen.
Armed combat is a staple of such
adventuring. Often there are puzzles to be solved. Many Eamons are simple "kill
& loot" scenarios ("Monty Haul" adventures, in gaming parlance), with the simple
goal of killing everything in sight and hauling out every treasure that isn’t
nailed down. More complex Eamons may feature a quest or even several nested
quests to fulfill. The very best Eamons are intricate, with perhaps hundreds of
rooms, scores of special effects, and dozens of complex puzzles to solve.
The Eamon gaming system consists of a
central program that tracks four specific types of data: Rooms, Artifacts,
Monsters, and Effects. Rooms make up the map of the dungeon; each room includes
a description and a list of exits, and may contain hints about hidden artifacts
or doors. Artifacts include every inanimate item in the dungeon: weapons,
treasures, doors, containers, potions, and more. Monsters include every animate
denizen of the dungeon: friends, companions, dragons, trolls, shopkeepers, etc.
Effects are used for special events that are specific to a particular Eamon
There are five different types of
weapons: clubs, axes, bows, spears, and swords. The player’s character gains
weapon expertise as he uses a weapon type, raising his ability to make effective
"hits" in battle. Basic Eamon is not very magical. There are four basic spells:
Heal heals the player’s injuries; Blast makes an attack on an enemy; Speed
doubles the player’s agility; and Power has unpredictable effects. Some advanced
Eamons include many more spells and weapons, but they are programmed by the
adventure’s author and are unique to that adventure.
Your character has three primary
attributes. Hardiness is the character’s strength and resistance to injury. The
greater this number, the more loot can be carried and the more combat hits can
be taken. Agility directly affects fighting ability. The higher this number, the
better the character stands to do in combat. And Charisma affects a neutral
monster’s likelihood of becoming friendly. Characters with high Charisma tend to
pick up more companions, a big plus in combat.
Eamon adventures are begun from the
Eamon.Master disk or folder. Here is located the Eamon Main Hall, where your
character "sleeps" between forays. While in the Main Hall, your character can
buy and sell weapons and armor, learn magic spells, visit the bank, and take
advanced training in weapons and magic. All adventures are launched from the
Main Hall, and all adventures return here when completed.
Once into the game, navigation is
simple. NORTH exits the present room, traveling north. Similar commands exist
for the other directions, including up and down. LOOK redisplays the room
description and may discover hidden exits or artifacts. EXAMINE will print the
description of an object (e.g., EXAMINE BOX). This command will also reveal
certain types of artifacts hidden in the room.
GET and DROP are used for inventory
management. Your character can pick up objects that might be useful on your
quest, and drop items when the load gets too heavy.
READY is used to prepare a weapon for
combat (e.g., READY SWORD). If you are carrying more than one weapon, this is
how you specify which weapon to attack with. To attack, simply use the ATTACK
verb (e.g., ATTACK TROLL). If you mistakenly attack a friendly character, you
can also HEAL them.
You can also use longer, more complex
commands, such as GIVE SWORD TO TROLL and PUT SWORD IN BOX. More recent Eamons
permit the player to truncate the commands—for example, "AT UG" for "ATTACK UGLY
TROLL". (The two words "Ugly Troll" are considered to be a single noun by the
Eamon interpreter.) Usually, the command’s object can be truncated from either
end; eg: "AT UG" or "AT LL" for "ATTACK UGLY TROLL". The truncation feature was
added haphazardly over time, but the new version 7.0 incorporates uniform
abbreviation syntax for all commands.
WHERE DO EAMONS COME FROM?
The Eamon gaming system is written in
Applesoft, so anyone can write their own Eamon adventures. The quality of Eamon
adventures, being directly dependent on the abilities and perseverance of each
adventure’s author, varies widely; some really stink, while others rival
anything Infocom ever did. Don’t worry, though—the ProDOS list consists of the
best 100 Eamons from the DOS 3.3 list. If you’re just looking to play, you can’t
go wrong with any of those.
With the exception of "Redemption" (the
Eamon adventure published in Softdisk 137), every single Eamon adventure is in
the public domain. Eamons can be obtained from nearly every vendor of
public-domain Apple software and most user groups. The ProDOS Eamons are also
readily available on the commercial on-line services—the Eamon Adventurer’s
Guild uploads them directly to GEnie, and provides them to others for uploading
to CompuServe, America Online, and Delphi. They eventually make their way to
many other bulletin board systems and Internet file servers.
Most Eamons were written by experienced
Eamon players for advanced characters. There is no particular adventure you
should start with, and you can play them in any order. For most enjoyment,
though, you would do well to use the character editor on the Eamon.Master disk
to set these player attributes: Hardiness, Agility, and Charisma = 22; all
weapon abilities = 50; chain or plate armor and shield; Shield Expertise = 25;
all spell abilities = 100; one 3D8 weapon. This will enable you to at least
survive in the more difficult Eamons.
Since the development tools for
designing Eamon adventures are readily available, so the real answer to "Where
do Eamons come from" is "You." Those who have designed their own adventures know
that the real allure of Eamon is designing and writing them. Getting to actually
play the game is just gravy. Eamon authors commonly agree that they have never
done anything with a computer that was as satisfying as writing their Eamon
Eamon adventures typically take 30
minutes to 2 hours to play, and cost about a dollar or two to purchase or
download. That’s a great value for any kind of entertainment these days. And if
you get involved in writing your own Eamon adventure, you’ll undoubtedly spend
dozens or even hundreds of hours on it. Now there’s a real entertainment
For more information sources of Eamon
adventures, send a long (business) Self Addressed Stamped Envelope to: Eamon
Adventurer’s Guild, 7625 Hawkhaven Dr., Clemmons, NC 27012-9408
The EAG is a non-profit organization and
does not sell Eamon adventures. Instead, you’ll get an up-to-date list of Eamon
sources, a complete list of Eamon adventures complete with notes and ratings on
a 1-10 scale, and information about the club and newsletter. ■