Review by Eric42

Reviewed: 04/11/01 | Updated: 03/25/02

An addictive fantasy-themed BBS text door game

Legend of the Red Dragon isn't your typical modern day RPG. Back before the Internet became the thing, computer users with modems would instead connect to small local servers called ''Bulletin Board Systems'', or BBSes. Most of the time, these BBSes were simply made up people from the local neighborhood, so it became a way for friends to connect to each other. Eventually, it also started the genre that would eventually become the Online Multiplayer RPG.

BBSes became famous for their Door Games, which Legend of the Red Dragon is one of. And of all the door games out there, Legend of the Red Dragon is perhaps one of the most famous out there. Of course, there are many others, most created by programmers which nothing better to do than create shareware programs and door games. (Okay, sorry about that last jab... it's a small, bad joke...)

Getting to the point, Legend of the Red Dragon is among the most popular, if not THE most popular, door game in the realm of BBSes. Few other games allowed players to do what LORD did. If a BBS had multiple phone lines, multiple players could come into the game at once and do their turns for the day and eventually, they could battle each other online. Now, let's examine the game up close, shall we?

At the core of the game, Legend of the Red Dragon has a very simple storyline. You have come to this town to become a hero by slaying the very thing that has plagued that town, the Red Dragon. Beyond that, the game had very little storyline but focused instead on game play and that's where the game shines.

Of course, there are people out there that would beg to differ about ''very little storyline'' part. There is Violet and Seth Able, who is rumored to have had a relationship at one time. There's Turgon, who runs the Warrior Training hall of the town. He's rumored to have a history with the Dragon itself, which could explain why he runs the Training hall now. Beyond that though, there's isn't a focused storyline and instead, you focus on killing creatures in the forest and competing with others on the BBS to kill the Red Dragon first.

The game is a text menu driven game. You don't have to guess at anything, and instead, you simply have to push I if you want to go to the Inn, F if you want to go to the Forest to kill and raise your experience, or T if you wanted to go to Turgon's to raise your level (if you have enough experience at least). Very simple and once you can get used to what you can do in each area, you'll have no trouble in the game whatsoever.

And being text menu driven, the game has very little graphics. In fact, graphics on most old BBSes didn't even exist in the early versions of LORD, so the menus were made up of a lot of - and = as lines.

In the later versions of the game, graphics eventually made there way into the game in two different ways. First in ANSI graphics. By today's standards, ANSI graphics are terrible. Huge blocks that might remind long time console gamers of the graphics from consoles in the pre-NES era of consoles. However, a lot can be done with ANSI graphics and some very clever menus were made with them in LORD. They look great for what they are.

The other style of graphics that LORD somewhat used was RIP graphics. Ripterm was a program that attempted to give a new look to BBSes. Most BBSes of old were viewed in text form and Ripterm attempted to give full graphics to those BBSes. LORD gave their support to Ripterm in the form of some very beautiful graphics. RIP graphics however were never widely supported and eventually, even LORD stopped giving them 100% support. However, LORD still fully supports RIP graphics if you use Ripterm to play.

The key to the success of the game is it's simplicity. As said before, all you had to do to get around is push the corresponding letter to go where ever you wished. However, it's simplicity goes beyond that as well. A simplistic version of what could be called a message board can be found in the game in the Inn (and the Darkcloak Tavern). Killing and doing the things that fantasy RPGs normally have you do only requires a press of a key once in the forest. You (L)ook for something to kill and then (A)ttack it or (R)un.

Want to kill someone else in the game? Has someone been talking their smack to you in the Inn? You can either search for them in the fields (which is accessible from the main menu) or attempt to bribe the Innkeeper (at the... Inn) to let you into their room so you can attack them there. But it's never a safe bet this way, as they attack back still even though that guy isn't even online. The computer controls them, using only regular, normal attacks, but they may end up being just strong enough to kill you before you can kill them.

And then, there is the online player fights. If a BBS had more than one phone line, you and someone else could enter the game at the same time and fight each other if the two of you wished it. This fight isn't like the normal player fight that I described above, as the other guy might be about to use their special skills to hurt you (if, for instance, they are a lower level than you).

Both styles of player fights net you some nice bonuses if the person you killed didn't deposit their money in the bank or use up all their gems, but no matter what, you'll gain experience equal to half their current experience. Whenever they, or you for that matter, get killed, they will lose all their money, gems, and a quarter of their current experience. So, whatever you do, don't get killed.

The game takes a very weird tone with several things that you can do in the game. Mostly, lays. Lays should be easy to figure out, but jic, it means the number of times you have sex in the game. Since the game did allow different genders in the game, you could have sex with a member of the opposite sex. And let's say you are a guy and there were no females in the game, there is one female already in the game that you have a chance to lay, Violet. (And there's Seth Able for the lady players.) But to do anything with her, you have to get your charm up pretty high. But you can do various flirtatious things with her in the meantime and gain experience for doing them.

On a similar note, you can even marry members of the opposite sex in the game as well. But you have to get your charm level really high even to marry another player. The one thing I hate is if you marry Violet or Seth Able is that you have no control over the marriage. I've often seen players marry Violet one day only to be divorced from her the next. But I've seen players that stayed married to Violet for months on end. It's all random. However, when you are married to another player, you can control how the marriage goes by answering a simple question as the game starts up. You either feel happy or sad (or something like those options) about the marriage.

The best thing that can come from marriages are kids. Kids give you quite the bonuses. First off, for each kid that you have in the game, you get a bonus forest fight. If the Sysop has the number of forest fights in the game set somewhat low, having kids may be a way around that if you can get enough. And the last bonus is also somewhat a down side as well. Sometimes when you are fighting and are about to be dealt a mortal blow, one of your kids will instead jump in the way, saving your life at the price of your own. You live but lose the first bonus.

One of the best things about the game is that the Sysop (System Operator, he who runs the BBS) is given almost full control over what can be done in the game. In a registered version of the game, at least. The Sysop can set the number of forest and player fights that you fight in a day, keep control of the player records, and various things like that. He can even make the game ''winnable'' after beating the dragon a couple times, or he can make the game go on for what could be forever! And in the latest version of the game (by Micheal Preslar), the Sysop can even edit the monsters, customizing them to add flavor to the game. Wouldn't it be cool if you could get the Sysop to add a monster with the name of someone you don't like all that much in real life so you can imagine killing them?

However, in the end, all the normal things in the game may get to be very boring. So, you've become level 12 several times in a row, killed the dragon more times than you have fingers and toes, and you've laid Violet (and other players in the game more than you remember)... what else is there to do in the game? Seth Robinson, the creator of the game, came up with an answer in the form of IGMs. IGMs, or In Game Modules, are other programs that work with Legend of the Red Dragon to add a new hint of flavor to the game. In the latter years of the BBS, IGMs become very popular and you could often see anywhere from 10 IGMs to at least 200. In theory, the game could hold even more than that.

So, it all comes down to if Legend of the Red Dragon is fun to play. I believe that at least several thousand others in this world would agree with me that if you have enough people in the game playing, that yes, the game is very fun and very enjoyable. One day, you are just playing only to find yourself in a ''friendly'' fight with someone who you later become friends with in the game. You even ally with the guy some, to team up on killing someone that is almost twice the level that both of you are currently at. Then you find yourself with a lot of charm and willing to use that charm to lay, or even marry, someone of the other sex. You may even someday find yourself beating the Red Dragon for the first time, or for the thirtieth time ever, and making it into the record books for that game.

Yeah, it's fun. And since today you can find the game on BBSes that you can connect to via TELNET, you can play the game even today. You'll have to search the net over for a BBS that is telnetable, but when you do, you'll be glad that you did when you play this game.

Rating: 10

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