Mike Riley started development in 1984 on a Tandy PCjr and released version 1.0 on a local BBS in Sacramento in summer 1985. Throughout the 80s and early 90s the game saw several updates adding additional graphics modes, rebalancing and new game mechanics. With version 5.0.0 which added a VGA graphics mode in 1996 the development ceased for nearly two decades. In 2009 Mike Riley made version 5.0.0 available for free on Home of the Underdogs and in 2013 the first update in 17 years was released, version 5.0.2 which rebalanced the magic system.
Like Rogue, Ultima and many other 80s RPGs, The Land uses an tile based, top down perspective and turn based movement. There are 7 races/character classes, each with an different "Vow" or "Oath", similar to D&D's Alignment system - if the player acts against their character's Oath, their experience gain and progression gets slower, with possible ability loss over time.
The following is taken from the version 1.9 readme file:
This is about the most powerful in the game but the hardest advancement. This player can cast the most powerful of spells, and use the most powerful of artifacts. This character also has good fighting ability.
This character is dedicated to the lore of stone and therefore can cast only the stone lore spells. This class is mostly magic using and little fighting ability. This class may at any time join either the Loresraat or the Warward, If the player does this then he will no longer advance in Rhadhamaerl skill.
This character is dedicated to the lore of wood and therefore can cast only the wood lore spells. This class also is mostly magic using and therefore has little fighting ability. This class also may join the Loresraat or the Warward, If the player does this then he will no longer advance in Lilianrill skill.
This class is of the Haruchai race. This class is immune to both sleep and fear. This class cannot use any weapon or armour. Defense and attack are both very strong with this character class. This class is strictly of fighting ability and cannot use any magical items. Bloodguard automaticaly acquire a Ranyhyn at the beginning of the game.
The Ramen are the tenders of the Ranyhyn (the great horses). Ramen are strictly fighting characters and cannot use any armor or weapons. Ramen are immune to fear. Ramen may not at any time ride any type of mount.
The warward is your basic average fighter class. Any weapon or armor can be used, as well as lesser magical items, But no artifacts.
Giants are basically very strong characters and can hit very hard. Giants cannot use any weapons or armor since they would be too small for them. Magical items may also not be used by giants except potions. Giants are immune to fire attacks and fear.