Dark Designs

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Relevant Games:

2D DOS Games:

3D DOS Games:

Apple II & IIGS:

Related Games:


Homage Games:

"Dark Designs is a role-playing game in which you lead a party of four characters through a ruined castle. Since the castle is inhabited by many vicious evil monsters, you will be called upon to vanquish these creatures of chaos. You will gain riches and build up your experience, exploring the secret places in the castle, until you finally reach the Staff of Grelminar. Once you find it, you must return to the town of Taprobale! ...Dark Designs II is a role-playing fantasy game. Your goal is to lead your four party members into Mount Delkeina, find the gate, and use Grelminar's staff to close it forever."

Dark Designs is a series of computer role-playing games originally created by John Carmack and published by Softdisk.


"The past year has been a frightening time for the people of the borderlands. A mysterious warlord has appeared from nowhere and begun massing an army amidst the mountains of the north and destroying everything in his path. The army is backed by a large number of otherplanar creatures: demons, devils, and chaos avatars reinforce his more mundane goblin troops. They pour out of Mount Delkeina, an ancient holy mountain, to replace any troops lost by the warlord. The major nations are squabbling amongst themselves and refuse to acknowledge the threat, so the borderland's only defense is its stock of hardy adventurers."

Apparently set in a shared universe with Catacomb, being based on Carmack's Dungeons & Dragons campaigns, the games take place some time after the death of Grelminar. His skills in cross-planar magic live on in his magical staff, which is now being sought by a team of heroes in order to stop an extra-dimensional invasion.


The engine is a grid based pseudo 3D projection similar to Wizardry, restricted to 90 degree angles and a draw distance of only a few tiles, and is Carmack's first foray into the concept. He returned to first-person projection with full horizontal rotation for Hovertank 3D (and eventualy full rotation with Quake, although Doom had already introduced a height component). One feature present in Dark Designs appears in Catacomb 3D in the form of descriptive text that adds additional elaboration for areas of the game. The Apple II version featured only monochrome wire-frame world graphics, while the DOS version features patterned walls and the Apple IIGS releases had either colours or later full on textures (similar to Hovertank and later Catacomb 3D).

First Trilogy[edit]

"The warlord's reinforcements must be cut off before anything else can be done. The gate the monsters are pouring through must be closed. Unfortunately, the only one with the power to do this passed away several years ago. The great wizard Grelminar's castle has decayed to a ruin. It is populated by several bands of evil creatures who use it as a base for raiding, and by other beings who have been magically caged by the wizard. You must retrieve Grelminar's staff, which holds the power to close rifts in the continuum. It should lie in his private laboratory on the third floor of the castle, but getting it will not be easy."

  • Dark Designs I: Grelminar's Staff (1990) - Softdisk #103, SoftDisk-GS #9, Big Blue Disk #52 (February 1991)
  • Dark Designs II: Closing the Gate (1990) - Softdisk #109, SoftDisk-GS #12, Big Blue Disk #54 (March 1991)
  • Dark Designs III: Retribution! (1991) - Softdisk #116, SoftDisk-GS #17

All originally developed for the Apple II, the first two titles were also ported to MS DOS.

A Dark Designs Character Editor was released on Softdisk #134.

Enhanced ports to the Apple IIGS were also produced.

Second Trilogy[edit]

Developed by Peter Rokitski exclusively for the Apple II, who also developed the sequels to Catacombs.

  • Dark Designs IV: Passage to Oblivion (1994) - Softdisk #146
  • Dark Designs V: Search for Salvation (1994) - Softdisk #151
  • Dark Designs VI: Restoration (1994) - Softdisk #157


External Links[edit]