Below the Root is an adventure game released in 1984 by Windham Classics, a division of Spinnaker Software. It is titled after Below the Root, the first of the Green Sky Trilogy of novels, written by Zilpha Keatley Snyder and published between 1978 and 1980.
The player can assume the role of one of five characters with different abilities, a member of one of two races - the Kindar or the Erdling - and attempt to settle the existing differences between the two groups.
The game was based on a series of books by Zilpha Keatley Snyder. Explaining how the game came about, she wrote:
"Like so many of my books, the trilogy's deepest root goes back to my early childhood when I played a game that involved crossing a grove of oak trees by climbing from tree to tree, because something incredibly dangerous lived "below the root." Years later when I was writing The Changeling I recalled the game, and in the course of embellishing it for that story, became intrigued with the idea of returning to the world of Green-sky for a longer stay. The return trip took three years and produced three more books. Initially published in 1978, 1979, and 1980, the trilogy was later reincarnated as a computer game (published by Spinnaker Software of Cambridge, MA).
The computer game transpired when I was contacted by a young computer programmer named Dale Disharoon. After Dale introduced me to the world of computer games, I wrote and charted, Dale programmed, and a young artist named Bill Groetzinger made marvelous graphics for a game that takes off from where the third book of the trilogy ends."
The original world of Green-sky first appeared in Snyder's novel The Changeling, where it was a fantasy world conceived by two schoolgirls. As such, it featured princes and princesses, wicked queens and familiar fairytale situations. However, many of the details appeared in the later novels. Green-sky as the girls imagined it is a low-gravity planet whose residents live in "softly rocking" houses built in the branches of enormous trees and "glide like blowing leaves" between the branches; "nothing was ever killed under the green sky" and the people live on a wide variety of fruits and nuts; they have brightly colored monkeys and songbirds for pets. Their skin is pale green, and their hair is darker green, often blossoming naturally into flowers. Below the ground live creatures of unspeakable evil, which must not be allowed to penetrate into the upper world.
This game was highly ambitious and had many subtle and clever details woven into the game's universe. First of all were the social norms of Green-Sky. Theft and violence were alien concepts to most of the books' characters. Therefore, one could not (as is common with adventure games) simply walk into a room and pocket an unattended object. One had to find the owner of the object and ask permission, buy the object with money (called tokens) in a shop, or locate the object in a public area. In the books, the Kindar economy was a moneyless quasi-communism; it was the Erdlings who used tokens and were used to being able to buy whatever they could afford.
Particularly interesting was the extremely low level of violence in the game. The player could be hurt only by falling, coming into contact with tree spiders (invented for the game), or walking into walls, and these incidents merely resulted in a jarring "bump" sound effect and an animation of the character crouching and rubbing their head, as if recovering from a nasty knock, rather than any gruesome or graphic injury. Even the occasional adversary did not hurt one's character grievously, although one did slowly lose health points and game time, and might find oneself sent back to one's nid-place (house) with an ominous notice that "you were found unconscious."