Monday, 23 March 2015

Caverns of Larn on Linux?

I'm a bit surprised that Noah Morgan's Larn from 1986 is not directly available from Linux repositories. (I can get it for mac from Macports, for example.)

Yet, Larn can be compiled from the sources here. Extract the archive, then off to the /src directory and as they say sudo make and then sudo make install. Then run the ./ from directory above.

The compiler may miss the curses.h library, which can be installed with these helpful instructions.

For example,

$ sudo apt-get install libncurses5-dev libncursesw5-dev

The Larn version seems to be the real deal content-wise, though it plays slightly different to one I'm used to. Usually the game gives suggestions for descending staircases, entering buildings, opening doors, chests, praying on altars etc, here you have to use keys. I'm not sure if this can be configured from the command line or if it is defined or absent altogether in this source. More crucially, the version seems to be a bit more explicit about certain potion and scroll effects, which may have been silent in other versions.

Sadly I've found the Linux game to halt occasionally with no helpful output as to why. This has happened when dealing damage to a monster or falling into a pit.

Edit: This might be an adaptation of the DOS version of Larn. I'm more familiar with the Atari ST and Macintosh versions.

Some Larn hints for beginners

The game works with the typical hjklyubn direction keys. Use w to wield weapons, W to wear armour, T to take off armor. Comma key picks up objects, d drops them. Use q to quaff potions and r to read scrolls/books. The key c casts spells, which are three-letter combinations. You learn the spells from books. Casting spells reduces your "spell" count, but it will replenish automatically.

(In some versions you also need: E key to enter, < > climb stairs, O open doors/chests.)

Home, LRS office, DND store, College of Larn, Bank of Larn, Volcano, Dungeon Entrance, Trading Post and DND store.

From the top world you can enter various places. There are two dungeons, the dungeon proper and the Volcano. Don't enter the Volcano unless you know what you are doing, or have pretty much destroyed the dungeon first.

The very beginning: Sweep clean the first dungeon level before bothering to go down. There are no really dangerous monsters on level 1, just be a bit careful with slow hobgoblins (H) and multiple enemies. Remember, you have the magic missile spell ("mle") from the beginning, but don't trust it to work every time.

Low level characters: Don't open any chests, avoid the altars, don't wash yourselves in a fountain, don't pry off any jewels off thrones and don't open any doors if possible. You'll live longer. Go down only when you are at least level 3. Hopefully you can afford some weapon and armor, too. There you need to start using your "mle" spell actively, because letting the monsters close on you is never very wise.

Potions (!), Scrolls (?), Chest (C), Altar (A), Statue (&), Jewel (<), Staircase (%), Trap (^)
Still, it is sometimes unavoidable that you fall into a pit and soon after into a teleport trap, together these can easily drop you down 3 dungeon levels lower than you intended. A hellhound or a white dragon can easily kill a low-level or poorly equipped character. Then your prime imperative is to find the stairways up.

Later on...

Something that can mess your life early on are the potion and scroll effects, which you desperately need but are unknown to you. One viable strategy is to collect as many potions and scrolls as you can, and when you have 3400 gold, buy and read the Scroll of Identity and see what you have.

All rings and magic items carried bring a cumulative effect and work automatically without you having to "wear" them. Energy rings and rings of regeneration are highly desirable, the former brings back spells and the latter returns hit points faster.

Finding every trick for fund-raising and monster-killing is part of the game so I won't tell everything. Let's just say that visibility-enhancements are also desirable whereas powerful long range spells will give an enormous advantage.

And really, never open a door repeatedly without looking what the effect is.

Play Larn online at http://larn.orgMy views on the online version and some further gameplay notes here.
A later, more spoilerific post about the Larn Volcano Lottery here.


  1. I'm glad to see another fan of the the game! If you're looking for a place to play Larn online, you can go to and play in your browser. There's also an option to play the Amiga version as well.

    1. Hello! Yes, I still enjoy Larn occasionally. Thanks for the link, I added it to the main text too. I played it to the end on the easiest level...

  2. My strategy with unknown objects is a little different. For potions, as soon as you have adequate money buy the Bad Five (poison, blindness, dizziness, forgetfulness, confusion; generally in that order). Once you have those identified you can drink the others experimentally and not worry about bad effects. If you have to get them one at a time you can still benefit by keeping at least some of the bad ones out of your inventory. You may "waste" a Raise Level or a Giant Strength, but [shrug emoji]. For the scrolls, I make a stockpile of unidentified ones, buy three of the Bad Five (blank paper, haste monsters, monster healing; because they're cheap) so I can pull them out and not waste spaces, then save up for Identify.

    1. A good point! Larn is quite rich in different approaches. I have sometimes tried a bit similar strategy, but not in such a systematic way - who'd think of buying the crap stuff first :)

    2. I use the same purchase strategy, but I go confusion, blindness, and forgetfulness -the first two because they can get you killed rapidly. I never figured out what the game effect was of poison and dizziness. I often will purchase aggravate monsters - even though it's more expensive, it's a very brutal effect.