King's Quest III

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King's Quest III
King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human
Apple II cover art
Developer(s) Sierra On-Line
Publisher(s) Sierra On-Line
Designer(s) Roberta Williams
Writer(s) Roberta Williams
Series King's Quest
Engine AGI
Platforms MS-DOS, Apple II, Apple IIGS, Amiga, Atari ST, Mac, Tandy Color Computer 3
Release date(s) October 1, 1986
Genre(s) Adventure
Mode(s) Single player

King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human is the third installment in the King's Quest series of computer games produced by Sierra On-Line. It was the first game in the series not to feature King Graham as the player character.

The game was released for the Apple II and PC in 1986. The latter was the first Sierra game to be DOS-based instead of using a self-booting disk, as well as the first to feature EGA and Hercules graphics support. A year later, it was rereleased with the slightly improved AGI V3 engine.

The game's title is a pun on the proverb "To err is human, to forgive divine" by Alexander Pope, whose namesake may have been given to the character Gwydion once it is later revealed who he really is in the game.


In King's Quest III, the story moves away from Daventry and King Graham to the land of Llewdor, where a boy named Gwydion is being kept by the wicked wizard, Manannan. According to the introduction, for as long as he could remember, 17-year-old Gwydion has been held captive by Manannan as his servant, cooking and cleaning for him in his home atop a large mountain in Llewdor. From this vantage point, and with the help of a telescope, the seemingly all-knowing wizard watches the countryside, the shoreline and vast ocean to the east and an endless desert to the west.

Manannan takes a series of absences and Gwydion seizes his chance to escape. He breaks in to the wizard's laboratory and reads Manannan's book of spells, then goes out in to Llewdor to collect ingredients for them. After solving many puzzles to obtain the spell ingredients Gwydion turns Manannan into a cat and is free. His journey then takes him across the ocean to Daventry to rescue a beautiful princess from a dangerous three-headed dragon. It is eventually revealed that he is the son of King Graham, kidnapped from Daventry by the magician at a young age, and the princess he has rescued is his sister, Rosella.

The actions taken by Gwydion in this story lead directly to the events that begin King's Quest V.


Most of the game's various lands and locations appear in the magic map. Once Gwydion reaches a new region, he cannot use the magic map to travel to a previous region.

Llewdor, the region in which the bulk of the game takes place, has no hard boundaries. In the north and south directions, the game map loops: if Gwydion travels far enough in either of these directions, he will come back to where he began. To the east and west, however, the sea and desert (respectively) are endless, and attempting to travel more than a few screens will result in Gwydion's death.

Once on board the Pirate Ship from Port Bruce's dock, Alexander travels across the Western Sea. This sequence in the game is marked only by a red line crossing the magic map, leading towards the north coast of the continent where Daventry is located. During this sequence, Alexander's movements are limited to the ship. If Alexander is caught by the pirates or jumps off the ship, he will drown out at sea. Later, when the ship docks, he can jump off and swim to the beach.

Once past the Western Sea, Alexander reaches the Great Mountains at the border of Daventry. Daventry itself is a small region, made up of only a few screens. Most are based on areas seen in the original King's Quest AGI version. This includes the broken well, a dried river bed, the crumbling castle, and the broken door into the mountain. These areas, while being based on landmarks of the original KQ1, are not located in the same places as they were in that game. Areas beyond these few screens are blocked off by piles of boulders, the Great Tear (a large chasm), stone walls and fences, or broken bridges. The old gnome from KQ1 has moved into a rickety old shack that rests over the dried river bed (where Graham picked up pebbles in KQ1).

The door into the mountain leads to a crumbling staircase (based on the staircase in the original KQ1) leading up to the Cloudland (based on the Land of the Clouds in KQ1). Cloudland is a bit smaller than it was in KQ1, only made up of three screens. The land is scorched, the trees are dead, and the area is full of steam. The three-headed dragon takes up the middle screen. Trying to open the magic map in this region will cause the map to disintegrate. Alexander must be invisible to travel very far in the region.


  • Gwydion: Gwydion was a young lad kidnapped from his cradle not long after his birth by the evil wizard Manannan. The wizard had teleported into his homeland, cast a sleep spell on his family, and brought him to Llewdor as a slave. As he was kidnapped when he was very young, he does not remember his family. As is the tradition, Gwydion was to be killed on his eighteenth birthday; he learns this fact and decides to find a way to escape before that day comes. Using forbidden spells Gwydion learns how to understand animals and meets the Oracle, from whom he learns his true identity as Prince Alexander of Daventry. He learns he must save his sister from a three-headed dragon that is terrorizing Daventry, or lose his family forever. Gwydion finally escapes the evil wizard, crosses the ocean, defeats the dragon, and reunites with his family. Upon his return the magic mirror, which went dark upon his kidnapping, is restored.
  • Manannan: An old, evil wizard who had the custom of kidnapping infant boys and training them as his servants only to kill them at age eighteen. He is member of the Magicians' Guild. For many years he reigned as the absolute ruler of the land of Llewdor, and under his leadership brigands, thieves and the like prospered. Manannan made a fatal error, however, in the choosing of his final servant, a baby boy whom he named Gwydion (who later was found to actually be Alexander, Prince of Daventry and current king of the Land of the Green Isles). Gwydion was able to escape the clutches of Manannan and, learning several magic spells, turned Manannan into a cat. He had kidnapped the boy in revenge for Graham's rescue of Valanice from his sister Hagatha (KQ2).[1] King Graham later encountered Manannan in Mordack's castle and captured him in sack of peas. After the defeat of his brother Mordack at the hands of King Graham of Daventry, Manannan was never seen or heard from again and his fate remains unknown. The King's Quest Companion speculates that he may have clawed his way out of the sack Graham put him in, and may have even found a cure for his feline condition. It goes on to suggest that he and Hagatha may be together again plotting revenge. Manannan's name is based on a wizard of Welsh myth, Manannan Mac Lir.
  • Three Bears: Mama Bear, Papa Bear, and Baby Bear lived in a tidy cottage in southern Llewdor. They are different in everything from size to tastes. Gwydion paid a visit to their home while they were out, but when he fell asleep, Papa Bear found him and threw him outside. Gwydion stole porridge from their table in order to feed an enchanted cookie to Manannan. He also stole a silver thimble from their bedroom to collect dew from the flowers in their garden. The King's Quest Companion explains further that the prince later gave Derek Karlavaegen, who lives not far from the bears, gold to give to the Bear family as payment for Alexander's deeds. Upon hearing the story of the prince's trials and adventures, they forgave him and gladly took the offered gold.[2]
    • In the AGD remake, the three bears are called "The Behr Family" and are depicted as rednecks.
  • Pirates: The Tavern at Port Bruce in Llewdor was frequented by pirates of the western sea. They took Gwydion's gold for passage to Daventry, and then imprisoned him in the hold of their ship. What they planned to do him is unknown, as the prince escaped by casting a sleep spell on them as they approached landfall.[3] Gwydion learned from the rats on the ship that the pirates were going to hunt a treasure at the coast of the continent of Daventry. He was able to recover their buried treasure with a shovel, and he took it with him to Daventry. The King's Quest Companion goes on to explain that all the pirates but one are now dead, the victims of a great storm spell cast by Prince Alexander after his return home. The lone survivor washed up on the coast of Llewdor babbling of shipmates being consumed by sharks and others swallowed by a great squid after being crushed in its tentacles.[3]
    • The AGD remake, stated that the Pirates were going to keep Alexander as a prisoner until they get to their destination (A land not explored or mentioned in any other game) and sell him on the slave market.
  • Bandits: The "Brat Catpack", as they are called, are thugs and desperadoes that inhabit the forest of Llewdor. These brigands prowl the woods beating, robbing, and sometimes killing those they can waylay. They are encouraged and supported by Manannan who has held sway in Llewdor for many years. They continue to hide in their treehouse, from which they prey on travelers, though many in the land have made effort to kick them out. They have "no morals and even less intelligence".[4]
  • Graham: He is the king of Daventry. Following Alexander's kidnapping, Daventry endured terrible hardship in the form of many devastating earthquakes that destroyed many landmarks. Soon after, a vile three-headed dragon laid waste to the kingdom and began to demand the sacrifice of maidens for its bounty. For some years the dragon ravaged the land. Graham's previously good judgment and wisdom had not recovered from the shock of Alexander's kidnapping. Choosing what he felt was best for Daventry, in an attempt to protect the land, he started sending innocent girls off to be sacrificed to the fire-breathing dragon,[5] even consenting to the sacrifice of his only daughter, Rosella. The princess later forgave him for taking her to the dragon, but his memory of tying her to the stake still sometimes disturbs his dreams. That she was rescued and survived only eases the horror a little.
  • Valanice: She is the queen of Daventry. The kidnapping of her baby son Alexander from his cradle was a massive blow to her, not just because of the loss, but because it reopened memories of her own kidnapping. Valanice attempted to submerge her grief through hard work—first by studying the histories of the world, and then by opening a school to teach the brightest children of the kingdom.[6] She spent much time teaching Rosella how to read and the histories of the world. When the three-headed dragon demanded the sacrifice of a young maiden, she fiercely fought against the decision to comply, and when it came time to offer her daughter to the beast she refused, standing guard by Rosella's room with a drawn sword.[6] But it was not enough, and she was forced to watch as her child was taken up the mountain.
  • Rosella*



The manual contains a short prologue story by Annette Childs that tells of Manannan's previous slaves and their deaths. The book also contains spells from The Sorcery of Old, needed to cast the spells in the game (these are reprinted in the King's Quest Companion).


A novelization of the game is included in The King's Quest Companion. The novelization is written in the form of an interview between Derek Karlavaegen (KQ6: "Guidebook to the Land of the Green Isles") and Alexander sometime after the events of KQ3–4. This was written to be a 'novel' walkthrough used to solve the game. The 'Encyclopedia of Daventry' in the first and second edition offered a few more backstories and details about the various characters and objects from the game. The chapter 'The World of Daventry' also included more details about the Land of Llewdor, and its inhabitants. The book also contains copies of the spells from The Sorcerery of Old, needed to beat the game.


The KQ3 Hintbook was written by Roberta Williams, the creator of the King's Quest series.


This was allegedly the first adventure game featuring auto-mapping, with a "magic map" found in the game that can be used to teleport to most locations that the player has visited before. This feature was unpopular among some fans who claim it made the game too easy; hence, magic maps in future Sierra games were more limited in their teleporting ability.[7]

Roberta collaborated with a team consisting mainly of the same people that worked with her on the previous two games, but more people were involved in the production this time. Al Lowe, who made the music in King's Quest II, became the lead programmer of King's Quest III, while his wife Margaret made the music instead. This was the game on which Al Lowe cut his teeth before moving onto his own series, Leisure Suit Larry.

King's Quest III was the biggest and most ambitious game Sierra made up to that point. Roberta Williams said that "My previous games, from Mystery House to King's Quest II, were all great. But they were essentially glorified treasure hunts...your object being to win the game by finding and collecting items. It was not possible to have bigger and more complex plots than that thanks to technical limitations."

By the mid-1980s, the new generation computer platforms such as the IBM AT, Amiga, and Macintosh were faster and sported more memory as well as standard hard disks. Thus, it was now possible to develop games of greater complexity than had been possible on 8-bit machines.

The Apple IIGS version had improved music and sound effects.

The game was released on five 5.25" floppy disks and three 3.5" disks. It became Sierra's second largest game after Time Zone (six disks). It was almost 50% larger than King's Quest I or King's Quest II.[8][9] KQ3 had 104 screens, whereas KQ1 had about 80 and KQ2 had about 92.[10]

The developers also introduced a real-time clock, with actions based on the clock. The developers also introduced an automatic map; although it was panned by critics and was never used in future King's Quest games, it was later re-introduced in Mixed-Up Mother Goose.

Copy protection

King's Quest III was the first game in which Sierra used a manual-based copy protection scheme (although technically not intended to be copy protection). Nearly all AGI games (including King's Quest III) have a disk-based copy protection, requiring the original game disk to be present in order to play the game. This was not entirely effective and unofficial versions were widespread. (This key-disk check was removed from the later-released "King's Quest Collection" versions.)

However, to complete King's Quest III, the player needs to create a number of magic spells through alchemical formulas that are only available in the game's manual. Many considered the process slightly overdone; 140 of the 210 possible points in the game are obtained through simply doing what the manual says, leaving less room for real puzzles. Starting with King's Quest IV, later Sierra games would instead ask for but a few actions described in the manual. Most often it was a dialog window appearing once, requesting the player to enter word X from page Y of the manual.

This was not a true form of copy protection and was actually considered a game feature (as most puzzles in the game are based on the spells), and thus the complete spell list was reprinted in many of the official guides at the time, including the Official Book of King's Quest and the King's Quest Companion.


  • Written and designed by Roberta Williams
  • Programming: Al Lowe, Bob Heitman, Bob Kernaghan
  • Game development system: Jeff Stephenson, Chris Iden
  • Graphics: Doug MacNeill, Mark Crowe
  • Music: Margaret Lowe
  • Viewmaster: Dale Carlson
  • Quality assurance: Larry Weissenborn, Bob Ballew, Andrea Monsalve, Russ Truelove, Kim Covert, Linda Bye
  • Story: Annette Childs
  • Packaging and documentation: Annette Childs, Greg Steffen
  • Key grip/gaffer: Ken Williams

Version history

  • 1.01 (11-08-1986): In this early version, the escape button pauses the game. There are no menus. Commands are accessed through the F keys, "CTRL-" or manually typing. F1 displays a Help file listing all the commands. This version has disk-based copy protection. Based on AGI2 engine.
  • 2.00 (5-25-87)
  • 2.14 (3-15-1988): This version was included in many of the King's Quest Collections over the years, with the disk based self-booting copy-protection removed. Pushing escape brings up a menu (arrow keys can be used to choose options), and the speed controls are included in the menu.


Though for the most part well received, winning the Softsel Hot List Hottest Product Award in 1987,[9] the release of this product in 1986 was quickly met with loud protests from gamers claiming that King's Quest III wasn't really a King's Quest at all. Because it focused on a young slave named Gwydion and his attempts to escape his evil master, players didn't grasp the connection between Gwydion and King Graham of Daventry until they finished the game some months later.[11]

Notice the "automatic mapping feature" of the game. This feature was widely promoted on King's Quest III's introduction; however, it was not included in future King's Quests games as player feedback indicated it reduced challenge.[12]

KQ3 was very dark, and it utilized lots of magic and magic spells with the basic idea of finding ingredients for "black magic" spells and then casting those spells. (Certain religious groups were upset with me over that one!)

— Roberta Williams, July 7, 1997

King's Quest III was markedly more difficult than its two predecessors. The player was required to type in magic spells line-by-line from a spell book that came with the game. The spells partially served as a form of copy protection, although the game already had a disk-based protection (it ran on a self-booter required disks to play, and could not be copied easily).[clarification needed] The spells were later reprinted in The King's Quest Companion. The spell book that came with the initial release of the game also had typos in it. In addition, the player has to work under time pressure, as certain activities like casting spells can only be done when the wizard is asleep or not home (this wasn't so bad as the game actually paused when typing or preparing the spells). The connection between Gwydion and King Graham does not become clear until the end of the game (unless the player overheard certain animal conversations), which also made the game's story line confusing.

A review in Computer Gaming World described the game as exceedingly frustrating, from the task of climbing stairs to identifying objects from their low-resolution graphics. The hint guide was highly recommended as a way to alleviate some of that frustration. The reviewer suggested gamers new to the series play King's Quest I instead, it being much easier.[13]

Easter eggs

  • If you attempt to "eat chickens", it says, "Sorry, Colonel; they're not even dead yet!" This is a reference to Colonel Sanders of Kentucky Fried Chicken.
  • Looking behind the tapestry in Manannan's house may bring up a plug for King's Quest IV's development.
  • Half Dome can be seen above the Great Mountains, and can be looked at.
  • If you "look at" or "feel" Rosella the game says, "Princess Rosella is gorgeous! Why, you'd be interested if she weren't your own sister! Her hair is long silky, and golden. Her eyes are as blue as the bluest sky. Her skin is creamy white. And her BODY... Well!! Embarrassed, you clear your throat and avert your eyes." If you try to "touch Rosella", Rosella says, "WATCH IT, FELLA!!" If you type "hug" or "kiss" Rosella, the game says, "You plant a brotherly kiss upon Princess Rosella's soft cheek." If you talk to Rosella, she asks to look at a birthmark on your bottom.
  • If you attempt to use any curse words, the game states, "Obviously, you were raised by a naughty wizard."
  • Drinking from water in the mountains will net a comment about Sierra water.

Fan remakes

There have been two unofficial fan remakes. Infamous Adventures created a VGA style remake, King's Quest III: To Heir Is Human (Infamous Adventures). It was released on June 19, 2006. It is a slightly expanded remake offering new material, including new cutscenes, a few new characters, expanded narration or dialogue, full speech, new or modified locations, and easter eggs. Most of the original puzzles remain intact, although the spell system was streamlined.[14][15][16] The game was made by the team because they wanted to see if they could do it, and prove they had the drive and ability to recreate the game with updated graphics and sounds.[17]

AGD Interactive released another VGA style remake, King's Quest III Redux on February 23, 2011.[18]


  1. Spear 1991, pp. 475, 484
  2. Spear 1991, p. 517
  3. 3.0 3.1 Spear 1991, p. 497
  4. Spear 1991, p. 441
  5. Spear 1991, p. 470
  6. 6.0 6.1 Spear 1991, p. 521
  7. King's Quest Collection Manual, pg
  8. Sierra Newsletter, Vol 1, No. 3, spring 1988, pp. 1–2
  9. 9.0 9.1 The Royal Scribe, King's Quest Collection, 15th Anniversary
  10. Inside the Chest, Sierra Newsletter, Fall/Winter 1988
  11. King's Quest Collection II manual, p. 4
  12. King's Quest Collection II manual, p. 5
  13. Wagner, Roy (June–July 1987). "King's Quest III". Computer Gaming World. pp. 18–20<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  14. Adventure Gamers news item
  15. Infamous classic starts an old Quest anew
  16. KQ3 Infamous Adventures (IMDB)

External links