Friday, May 6, 2011

How We Saved Elfhelm's Bane

Chronological Halo will return next week. It might seem like the delay is because the next level is 'The Library,' unloved and unappreciated by many, but in reality there's a much better reason to talk about something else today: Elfhelm's Bane has been saved!

That might not mean much to you. Even if you had an Apple II back in the day, there were a lot of high-profile games available from Infocom, Electronic Arts, Sierra, and SSI to spend your time and money on. But sometimes you'd stumble across a game that did things differently or better, and Elfhelm's Bane was one of those. It was a text adventure, but it had roleplaying elements: monsters and stats and weapons and armor and spells and character classes. Much of the action took place in the city of Elfhelm, where priests have begun to worship the evil Wormlord. It's up to you to destroy the Wormlord, but to do that you'll have to explore the city and fight monsters to earn money and improve your character.

In fact, the title screen doesn't say 'Elfhelm's Bane.' Instead, it says 'The Realm of Angbar, written by Elfstone.' At certain locations throughout Elfhelm you'd enter a room with an exit to another location, and if you tried to go there, you'd be prompted to enter the adventure disk for that other location: Fangwood, or the Crystal Realm, or Mountain-lord of Eriath. Other games that would plug into Elfhelm's Bane to create the complete Realm of Angbar!

I found out later those games were never made, which was pretty disappointing. But I love the idea of it.

Since 2000 or so, I'd try searching for Elfhelm's Bane on the wide Internets every few years, but to no avail: it seemed like every Apple II game ever made had been converted into .dsk images except for Elfhelm's Bane. Did no one remember this game?

I found out yesterday that somebody did! A blog started in January of 2010 professed to be an Elfhelm's Bane Shrine! Find it at listen to this, by the author of the blog:

Overmind the Great:
I actually had e-mail correspondence with [Mark Peterson, the author of Elfhelm's Bane]... (I think- it could have also been a fan who had direct contact with him; the e-mails were on my work e-mail, which I no longer have) a few years ago, and he managed to find the original discs and sent them to me in the mail. I believe he was shocked anyone remembered Elfhelm's Bane.'

You see where he mentions a fan having contact with Mark Peterson? That was me! Back in 2004 or so, I found his email address and asked him what ever happened to Elfhelm's Bane. He wrote back saying that every so often he'd get a message about it, but sadly most of his computer stuff had gotten packed away and thrown out over the years. He didn't have a copy of the game anymore, and since it had never ended up in a .dsk image, Elfhelm's Bane was going to be lost to obscurity.

So I made a copy of my disks, packaged them up, and sent them through the postal service to Mark. He wrote back when he received them, and said that he was going to contact one of the guys who had written to him about the game, who would probably be pretty excited to get a copy of it. That must have been Overmind the Great, whose Elfhelm's Bane Shrine now has the .dsk images for Elfhelm's Bane!

Seven years ago, I had hoped that by sending my disks to Mark Peterson I might help preserve Elfhelm's Bane from vanishing forever, but I didn't really think it was going to happen. But with a little luck, Mark's friendly assistance, and the go-getter attitude of Overmind the Great, I think we managed to save it. We saved Elfhelm!

Now we need somebody to make those other modules. Whaddaya say, Mark? :D


  1. I've been trying for years to find a way to contact Mark Peterson regarding Swords of Chaos, another one of his hit games which features a lot of the history of Angbar (even the main town is called Elfhelm).

    A couple of very die hard SoC fans and I are planning to rewrite SoC from scratch using up to date code and were very hopeful to be able to contact Mark at some point for his input. So please, shoot me an email and let me know if you still have a way to get to him, or send him my information and let him know I am dedicated to preserving and restoring the SoC community. I run and which is currently the most active SoC game in the world now.

    Thanks for your blog and I hope to hear from you soon.