Larn Screenshot

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Welcome To Larn

This blog is all about the game of Larn, designed originally by Noah Morgan in 1986. I'd like to note that there is probably a whole lot of stuff I simply don't know. This is all based on my own experience, so don't take it as gospel.

I first played the game of Larn off of a 5.25 floppy disc on computer that had a 5 inch green monitor and was packing an 8088 4mhz processor. One fun thing about that version of the game, was that if you were lost and didn't know what level you were on, as soon as you saved your game, it would tick off the levels as it saved. I think the reason I preferred Larn to its contemporaries Rogue, Dunzhin, etc, was that it was "turn based" in the sense that the monsters wouldn't move until you moved. That way you could carefully plan moves and just make it to that staircase before the white dragon on level five got you. Situations became logic games. Larn was also a whole lot more sleek, simple, and elegant.

I also liked how there were things in the game that weren't mentioned in the instructions anywhere. I remember the first time I discovered that you could (on lower difficulties) blow up statues with a fireball, lightning bolt, cone of cold, or vaporize rock spell and there would be a book inside. I figured that out one game where I shot a fireball at a monster and it kept going until it hit the statue; the message said that my fireball damaged the statue. Then I tried standing right next to the statue and voila, the fireball blew it away and I had another book. The same thing happened with walls. I figured out I could knock down walls with a fireball, lightning bolt, or cone of cold. At higher difficulties it became a lot harder to knock down walls with these spells, and after difficulty two you can't blow up a statue at all.

I'd like to also point out, that there are a couple versions of Larn that I've encountered. The original Larn can still be found in the standard UNIX package that some ISP's still use. I happen to have an ISP with a UNIX shell and I still play this version of Larn. There was a version that was ported to DOS (the version I played originally) that had a couple easter eggs in it. One, you could withdraw a negative amount of money, and it would add that amount of money to your bank account. (I could have this backwards, it might've been possible to deposit a negative amount and have it give you more money in your inventory). Also, there was a keycode you could type in, which was based on the "Combining Gas Law" pv=nrt that went into a mode where the Home level had one of every object in the game. (every scroll, potion, weapon, armor, etc). You could gear up and buff (and even duplicate certain items from the store) and play the game starting with all the best stuff. These two things do not exist in the UNIX version of the game that I play. The other version I've seen is Ularn, which adds player classes, levels, magic items, a drug dealer's store, and more. You can google this and play it for yourself. It was fun up to a point, but ultimately, it was a little too complicated for its own good.

I'll be adding new posts soon, talking about strategies and other fun things I found by playing the game. I find myself playing Larn a lot, and it's retained its fun long after I got sick of playing Civ IV or Neverwinter Nights. I read that Noah Morgan passed away. I would've liked to have met him and told him what a great thing he made.


ConcertinaChap said...

Gosh! Another Larn obsessive. I'll try your volcano lottery strategy. I've never put a name to my favourite strategy, but I guess I could call it diamonds are a guy's best friend, since it mainly revolves around gathering gems and scrolls of perfection. With luck and a following wind you can have a lance of death and stainless plate armour by or before level 6.

The start of my play is usually to accumulate enough to buy the book and then immediately sell it back for 9000 odd gold pieces. Then you can buy the chest and immediately sell that back too, and hey presto you've translated your 2000 gp to about 17000.

I tend to read all books, even the ones on the first level, because you just might get the sleep spell, and that's a cracker. Did you know that the sleep spell plus the lance of death will always do for a demon prince?

On occasions when I had permanence plus cancel, sleep, vpr and inv I've put myself next to an altar and done the following: vpr, sleep and hit. Instant level gain. When I've had a lot of time on my hands I've typed the required keypresses into an editor, copied and pasted them a few times and then copied and pasted the resulting set into the game. By this means I've been able to loft myself through all the levels right up to level 100 - the Creator. Not that it does you much good oonce you've got there ...



Master Gorgon said...

Cool...glad I'm not the only one :)
Does the store book always sell for 9000? Maybe it's just my version, but it seems to vary. Sometimes it's even 653.

I had no idea that SLE worked on the demon prince. I always figured he was immune, hehe. I'll have to remember that. Usually I rely on HLD or a Hold Monsters spell. If you've had the Lance of Death since the first couple levels (using the Volcano strategy) I can usually get my WC up obscenely high. (around 50-60) by enchanting the belts of striking repeatedly.

My reason for abandoning the Gem/Perfection thing was that I didn't always find another gem perfection scroll in the dungeon. Sometimes I'd find three or four of them. There is usually at least a chest on V1. There have been times I've found chests on all three levels, that's 111k + 71k + 56k. The trick is getting up the volcano shaft. (have to do them one at a time sometimes).

I'll have to try the trick with VPR/SLE hit. Sometimes the Altars disintegrate though.

Thanks for posting. Been playing this game for 20 years and never knew anyone outside my close circle of friends who knew about it.

Mike said...

I started playing larn again recently also. I'd also like to make some modifications, but I like the game a lot so I don't want to do anything to make it worse.

I'd like to try your volcano gamble strategy, but lately I have been trying to get higher and higher scores, which results in higher and higher tax bills (My last game I had 2500000 gold, which is a 125000 tax bill), so I don't have access to the store for well into the game. (unless I pay the tax bill over multiple games, which I try not to do)

Some things I have learned from looking at the code:
1 point of Dexterity is worth 4 points of Weapon Class, for determing hit percentage. So Dexterity Rings are better to enchant with Enchant Weapon scrolls if you have the Lance of Death

You regenerate 1 spell every (100 + Game Difficulty Level) - (Your Level * 4) turns
Energy Rings add directly to your level for that calculation, so I usually try to use enchant weapon scrolls on them to get up to maximum spell regen as quickly as possible.

Let me know if you have any question about the code. I have learned a lot from looking at it. (You can get it from if you want to look at it yourself)

Master Gorgon said...

Thanks for the heads up on that stuff, pretty interesting!

Once you get the Lance of Death, spells aren't that big of a deal. I only have run out of spells early in the game (on the first couple levels) when I only have 3 or 4 spells and there are things like giant ants and centipedes.

I've had over 500,000 gold before (check out the "breaking the bank" post). I dropped it all before going back to Home. Wonder how much it would be.

Is there a formula for spell failure? (involving intelligence and how powerful the spell is?).

How much does the INV spell affect your chance of being hit?

What version of Larn is the sourcecode for? Does it have the secret code to get into the sorta "god mode" ?

Does it limit statue destruction to diff's 0-2?

Does it say how many hit points monsters have?

I'm not much of a coder type, but I might take a crack at the code for the formulas.

Mike said...

Let's see...

Spell failure chance can be from either a random 1 in 23 roll, or a random 1-18 roll being greater than your int. So, 18 Int is the highest you need to minimize your spell failure.

The INV spell makes monsters miss a random 19/33 chance. (CHM causes a miss if a random 1-30 roll plus 5 times the monster level minus your charisma is less than 30. So a charisma of 40 would give you 50% misses against level 10 creatures (the highest non demon) on average.

My Version is 12.4, but it is the same as 12.3, for all rules stuff.

Yes, statues become indestructible at difficulty level 3. (I think this makes hte game much less fun, and would be one of hte changes I would make)

If you get the code, you can get all the monster stats from data.c, they are near the middle and in a pretty easy to read format.

the spacing won't work here but if you cut and paste to a text file it should be readable. eg.
----------------------------------------------------------------- */

{ "gnome king", 9, -1, 10, 0, 0, 0, 18, 2000, 100,3000 }

Master Gorgon said...

Cool, thanks. I haven't had time to open up the source code.

I've wondered about SLE and WEB bypassing a monster's ability to dull your weapons. (you can cast them on g's, R's, and q's, with no problems).

How many hit points do the demons have?

Am I wrong, or did an earlier version of larn have a dot in each space? I remember being able to see the demons, and even if you did a detect monsters potion, you would see a blank spot.

Anyway, again I'm glad there are other obsessives out there :)

TGN said...

Ah, Larn. I too have fond memories and recently downloaded a few versions to relive the awesomeness. It's still great.
One thing I've had trouble with though is that the text at the bottom of the screen over-types on itself so it's a bit of a mission trying to work out what has just happened...anyone else struck this?
Also, when I used to play, gold was a * not a $, but I guess that's just a version thing...

Ugh, just got killed on level 8 when I had stainless armour and the LOD. Stupid Demon Type II!

Master Gorgon, I tried your volcano strategy a few times but got hemmed in by monsters/traps. Was fun though :)

GeorgeWill said...

I've been trying to find the oldest original version of Larn. Could you copy or download the one you access through the Unix Shell of your ISP? I am a purist at heart and I would like to get a hold of the Unix version you play.


fensterfan said...

Hello, I'm another old school Larn fanatic who still plays it today. I used to play the old version that had the "." character all over the place.

Anyway, one strategy that I employ that I don't see mentioned here is to use the Altars to enchant your weapons, armor, and rings. If you pray at an Altar and donate at least 10% of the money you're currently carrying there's a chance your armor or weapon will be enchanted. There's one catch though that you must donate at least $50 each time. So basically, if you drop all of your cash except $500 and keep stepping on the altar to donate $50 at a time, you get 10 shots at enchanting your armor and weapons. Usually you get about 2-6enchantments with that money. So instead of buying or trying to find enchant weapon/armor scrolls (which cost $1250 for just +1), i just pray at the Altars to supe up all of my rings, weapons, and armor to +9 for just a couple grand.

One big catch though is that you can't enchant an item past +9 or it will be destroyed.

Anyways, I love the volcano lottery strategy - i'm gonna give that one a try!

Master Gorgon said...

Wow, I hadn't checked this in a while. I'm glad people are still out there enjoying Larn.

Larn is still included with FreeBSD UNIX. I don't know if that helps. I haven't tried grabbing the program out of there. I'm not sure where it's located.

I assume you could play the UNIX version in a Linux OS?

I have a DOS port of Larn on a 5.25 floppy somewhere. If I recall you had to run ANSI.sys or something in order for it to work right. I haven't tried playing that version since I had a 486 DX2-66mhz computer though.

I thought someone else posted that the original Larn sourcecode had been posted somewhere.

The key to the Volcano Lottery is to read a Stealth scroll AND to Pulverize a creature like a Naga (n) to get to Level 10. That way you can use the shift-z to teleport when you get stuck.

It amazes me that I can get just as much fun (or more) out of Larn as I do from something like Neverwinter Nights 2.

terrax76 said...

I was thinking about Larn a couple weeks ago, and when I googled it your blog came up as one of the top search results. It's definitely a great game, and was one of my favorites to play back when I got my first computer in '87. I'd spend countless hours playing it, and it's great to see other fans of Larn that are still out there. I've enjoyed reading some of your entries as well as other ppl's comments. I also found a version of Larn that's pretty true to the original and have been reminiscing the game by actually playing it too! Even after 20+ years is hasn't lost its luster, and it's just as addicting to me now as it was when I was 11.

There are 2 spells I want to learn more than any other - lightning & finger of death (there are plenty of other spells that I love to use, but if I had to choose only 2 it would be those 2). Lightning can kill most monsters with 1 hit that I don't want to fight hand to hand (V,W,R,g,q) or 2-3 hits on volcano monsters I might run into on the deep dungeon levels (or gnome kings that appear from throne prying) before I have the lance, not to mention it easily takes down walls & statues (in early difficulty levels of course).

Then when I find the demon prince on V3 I just use the finger of death on him and he's done for. If I don't ever learn fgr, I'll use a hold monster scroll (or the hld spell if I have it) then get him with the lance. I never knew about sle working on him until reading your blog, so now I have a 3rd option to kill him, lol.

At any rate, great blog and I'm glad I came across it. Looking forward to your next entry.



Lottery said...

I will try your volcano Lottery Strategy. I've never put a name to my favourite strategy, but I guess I could call it diamonds are a guy's best friend, since it mainly revolves around gathering gems and scrolls of perfection. With luck and a following wind you can have a lance of death and stainless plate armour by or before level 6.