Bits From my Personal Collection – Demon Venture #1, Reign of the Red Dragon

While Adventure International is best known for co-founder Scott Adams’s original text adventure games, his company would in the early ’80s publish a myriad of different games all supplied from programmers across the US. At the time many publishers started distributing their games to bigger retail and computer chains and consequently see sales in the thousands if not tens of thousands, however Adventure International would still primarily sell its titles from its small retail location in Florida alongside mail-order. In 1983 Adventure International had over 150 software titles in their catalog, with the best selling title only selling around 3000 copies. This left most titles with relatively few sales. One of those titles was David Daring’s 1982 fantasy roleplaying game Reign of the Red Dragon, a title that was intended to kickoff Adventure International’s Demon Venture Series of games.

Reign of the Red Dragon was a dungeon crawler, very much inspired by Dungeons & Dragons and other CRPG’s of the time. The game was in black and white only (since it was released for the TRS-80 Model I and Model III). While the market were saturated with RPG’s, Reign of the Red Dragon did bring some quite nice features along with it. The included “rule book” very briefly explained the settings and added a bit of backstory.

The included “rule book” gave a bit of backstory to Reign of the Red Dragon, along with a few hints and tips

The evil Red Dragon, unleashed unintentionally by humans has put the otherwise peaceful kingdom into fear of evil and death. While many have tried none have succeded, now it’s you and your party’s turn to descend into the dungeons of the Red Dragon’s castle, defended by its dark forces, find the eight fragments of the ancient golden scepter and slay evil itself.

Reign of the Red Dragon allowed for up to 5 human players to join the same party, each choosing their own character from a quite impressive list of different types (human, dwarf, cleric, magician, thief, elf, or warrior). Player statistics were randomly generated and each player was gifted a random amount of financing. Prior to entering the dungeon, each player had to purchase their own starting supplies, weapons, and magic… but only through experience would you find out which items were vital and which were unnecessary on your dangerous journey.

The TRS-80 version was the only release of the game. It was released in the typical Adventure International folder and styrofoam package. It was one of the first Adventure International titles to actually appear with what looked like professional artwork on the cover

The dungeons (mazes) were randomly generated and explored from an overhead view. An asterisk represented the party’s leader which was moved around with the arrow keys, the rest of the party followed suit at a discrete distance. The players would shift turns as leader of the party as they traveled along dark hallways, encountering and entering chambers to discover treasures (gold, healing potions, weapons…) and vicious monsters, all while slowly descending to the lower level. Only the party leader would be able to enter chambers, the rest of the party would wait outside for the outcome. When in combat the party leader had a multitude of commands available, like shoot arrow, stab with sword, etc… The combat was real-time and you had to quickly choose your actions or otherwise sustain injuries. The game would end if all members of the party were killed.
Different commands were available for the party leader when traveling the dungeons, like Drink Elixer, Give Supplies to another member of the party, Change Leader, Save Game, Inventory, and Attributes.
Characters when created would automatically be saved to the disk and could be reused at later times. While the TRS-80 model I only could save five characters the Model III could manage up to 70 (both depending on the available disk space).

Reign of the Red Dragon was only released for the TRS-80 and was like many of the early games widely pirated. It ended up selling less than a thousand copies, making it quite rare today.
Daring wrote Mystery of the Four Doors, which was to become the second title in the series but the technological advancement left Daring’s game obsolete and it was never released. Reign of the Red Dragon would become the only title released in the Demon Venture Series.

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