Archive for August 2016

Adventure 366: More Than Anticipated   Leave a comment

Yes, this one is back! It turns out I missed something.

Just as a reminder, the only new place added to the Blackett / Supnik 1977 version of Adventure was a gazebo, which contained a palantir (orb). I mentioned various messages received if you PEER IN the orb:

0205 a grate at the entrance to a large cave……
0206 a small stream feeding into a large cave…..
0207 a grate above you and a crawl west…..
0208 a hall,but the vision is clouded by thick mists…..
0209 yourself…the lights come up and an usher asks you to leave….

… and I assumed that was it. There was a magic word (“PKIHMN”, which sounds like a cross between Pikmin and Pokemon to me) that teleported me to outside the grate but I assumed that was merely to allow escape.

However, S. Healey (who made the Gobberwarts port) pointed out an interesting extra detail; that PKIHMN is linked to the orb, and it can be used as long as the orb is around:

…the palantir teleports you to different places depending on what you’re carrying (you get teleported to the same place as described when you PEER ORB).

The items/places are:

Keys: Outside grate
Axe: Hall of Mists
Lamp: Below Grate
(default): West Chamber of Hall of Mountain King

If you’re carrying more than one of the items, you teleport to the location related to the item top-most in the above list.

There seems to be a teleport location that was never implemented:
xx[ii++] =”0206 a small stream feeding into a large cave…..

This has the extra effect of killing a player who attempts to use the orb without getting the items from the building first, because the “default” teleport is a dark area where the player is bound to fall down a pit.

Posted August 24, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Adventure 366 (1977)   Leave a comment

In my post about early versions of Adventure I mentioned a 1977 port which seemed to be the first past Crowther and Woods which tried to do more than just port the code. Unfortunately, it’s a little hard to know who to credit, exactly. This is from the source code:

c For x86_64, pgf77/ifort/gfortran, S. O. Lidie, 2015.04.01
Tested On Mac OS X Yosemite and CentOS 6.x.

Update for NOS/VE 1.4.x, 89/11/03. SOL, LUCC.

Convert to NOS/VE: use direct access reads instead of word addressable
NOS CRM files. S. O. Lidie, 87/05/01, LUCC. NOS/VE 1.2.2 L678

Program last updated from SCOPE 3.4 to NOS 1.3 by
Bill Hein and Shelley Hobson (ACCA).

Modified by Kent Blackett
Engineering Systems Group
Digital Equipment Corp.
Modified by Bob Supnik
Disk Engineering
Original version was for DECsystem-10
Next version was for FORTRAN IV-Plus under
the IAS operating system on the PDP-11/70
This version is for FORTRAN IV (V01C or later)
under RT-11 on *any* PDP-11.*

These credits don’t even mention the version I played was a recent port at Gobberwarts; so recent that the author bug-fixed something in it for me today (thanks!).

In any case, this text and another one like it in the game suggest to me that most of the long list of authors were merely porting between systems but Blackett and/or Supnik succumbed to the irresistible urge to add their own touch to the game.

Unlike Adventure II, there was just a small addition. Specifically, there are three new rooms near the starting building (Forest, Dell and Gazebo) and one new item: a palantir (orb).

Via Steve Lidie.

Map via Steve Lidie. The new rooms are shown.

At your feet all the water of the stream splashes into a 2-inch slit
in the rock. Downstream the streambed is bare rock.

You are in open forest, with a deep valley to one side.
An overgrown path, barely discernible, leads south.

You are in a dell, deep in the woods. Before you is a steep
incline leading up to an old deserted gazebo. As you peer through
the overhanging moss and cobwebs you see a dark form.
A path, heavily overgrown, leads south.

You are in the gazebo. The dust is deep here, indicating
long disuse. Ancient elvish runes here describe this as a
place where one may see many things. Another, more ancient
inscription reads “PKIHMN”.
There is a palantir(orb) here.

If you check the map carefully, you notice there’s no exit out; the magic word is used in the gazebo to teleport to outside the locked grate at the start of the game.

The orb is a treasure and the source of the extra 16 points, but at least in concept the author(s) tried to add an interesting design element: peering into the orb to get hints.

>peer in orb
The lights dim…it now seems to be totally dark — in the orb
many visions pass by… many things are seen…..
now you are looking at …….
a grate at the entrance of a large cave……

Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be much actual hints; here all the messages possible for the last line of the palantir’s vision in the source code:

0205 a grate at the entrance to a large cave……
0206 a small stream feeding into a large cave…..
0207 a grate above you and a crawl west…..
0208 a hall,but the vision is clouded by thick mists…..
0209 yourself…the lights come up and an usher asks you to leave….

It’s possible there was intended to be more, or it’s possible this was simply meant as atmosphere.

In any case, there is a long history of modifications to Adventure and it’s interesting to see what (maybe was?) the very first one.

For further watching: GET LAMP interview with Bob Supnik.

Posted August 16, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Lords of Karma: Finished!   Leave a comment

Before I get to the winning path, I want to talk about a few other gameplay elements.

First a map, alas incomplete (click to enlarge):


There are forests arranged in mazes and tunnels underneath that are dark. Navigating the tunnels took using my torch, which I found ran out far too quickly; it was hard to explore more than a fraction of the tunnels before it went out. That element plus the secret doors (which I’ll talk about it a moment) plus the general randomness made it too hard to be fully comprehensive about mapping.

A lot of the enemies (vampire bat, goblin, and an evil magician) were lurking down in the tunnels. They apparently have no problem in the dark:


(If I had killed the magician, I might have finished a quest; there’s a “man in grey robes” wandering aboveground that warns “RETURN TO ME THE STAFF OF THE EVIL SHIMMERING MAGICIAN, BUT DO NOT USE IT YOURSELF!”)

What makes the light source issue doubly frustrating is there are secret doors hidden in a very odd way.


In other words, hang around and looking over and over and eventually a secret door may just materialize. I presume the intended mimesis is that by using LOOK you are searching the room, like an old-school D&D adventurer.

On to winning–

If you read my last posts carefully, you might have noted I ran across a king who wanted me to rescue the princess, and I shortly thereafter was killed by a knave near a “young woman in soiled but expensive clothes”.

It’s apparently possible to luck out, because I randomly came across the same knave / woman pair while playing a new game and attacked them even though I didn’t have weapons. I killed the knave with a single karate chop.

At this point the princess was willing to follow me, so I headed back to the king (who I hadn’t even visited yet that game!) and this happened:


After that bounty of karma points, I took the diamond to the church and gave it for even more karma points (quite a few!) and decided it was time to go inside the church and pray:


The problem with having a game with so many generative elements and a flexible goal it is quite possible to squeeze through via luck. I reset the game and tried to kill the knave quite a few times without weapons and had no success.

The amount karma awarded is random; I tried going through the princess-rescuing sequence again (with a weapon this time) and even after donating the diamond and several more items to the church, I was only at 176 karma points. Praying at 176 karma did nothing.

Apparently even the maximum required score is random:

The purpose of the game is to accumulate “karma points”, which are necessary for the character to go directly to Heaven. The player is never informed how many karma points are needed, and the chosen number of points is another example of the game’s randomness as it changes from game to game; some games end nearly instantly due to a very low karma point goal being randomly chosen, while others can last for hours.

Other than not defeating the evil magician I never got by one other obstacle: a giant in the forest. I’m not sure if it’s meant as an obstacle to something greater or if it’s just another notch for your karma score.

I also found a very neat item I never was able to use: a bomb with a fuse. I’m curious what would happen if I tried it on the idol of Baal, but I never had a situation where I both was holding the bomb and found the idol.

Normally my sense of completion might be enough to find out for myself what I’m missing but the fact goals don’t even give a consistent score rather takes my motivation away. If anyone else is dying of curiosity, though, I first recommend you grab an emulator as opposed to playing online, because there’s a several-minute startup time for the random generation; you can set the emulator so it accelerates the process and takes only a couple seconds. Download for the game itself is here (there are two versions, they both seem to work fine).

While my description of gameplay may seem underwhelming, Lords of Karma does feel chock full of texture. There’s randomly placed items, characters that can follow you, monsters that can chase you, and a weird religion system which feels suitably mystical. It’s certainly a promising first effort, especially for an author who programmed his own adventure-creation system from scratch in 1978 technology.

Posted August 12, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Lords of Karma: Religious Epiphany   Leave a comment

Via Ebay.

Via Ebay.

Lords of Karma (so far) features a very simple parser and gameplay which consists almost solely of wandering and slaying the occasional monster. This would be a recipe for a grind except the religion system is keeping things very interesting.

I have managed to gain some karma points. The simplest way was by defeating a monster, which I guess is improving the good of the world somehow.


I also found a “man in rags” who I could give treasures to.


although I found a bigger bang for my dollar (so to speak) by giving at a church


After entering the church and praying, I had some sort of religious experience:


Exploring the new area yielded a nearby “idol” to Baal. I had a ring I tried to give as an offering, but bad things happened:


While the church did not specify any kind of denomination, I’m guessing some sort of mutant Christianity? I’m not sure what to think yet what’s going on with religion, really — the name of the game is Lords of Karma, plural — other than I’ve been anxious to know what will happen next with the worldbuildling.

Posted August 11, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Lords of Karma (1978)   1 comment

While Scott Adams had the good fortune of writing in a “meta-language” that made it easy to port to other system, his work originally was designed for the TRS-80. Of course, anything in BASIC was relatively portable, so people like Greg Hassett also embraced multiple platforms.

However, there’s another author working around the same time who was possibly the first to be ambitious from the start about portability on home computers: Gary Bedrosian.

So having what for the time was a fairly good system, I wanted to try to write an adventure game. The only trouble with that idea was that most people didn’t have what I had, so I knew if I wanted to reach a wide audience, I had to make it run on Apple, Atari, and TRS-80. The answer to my problem was a shareware program called Tiny Pascal. It was a very compact compiler (it had to be for a computer limited to less than 64 kilobytes of memory) designed for the 8080 or Z80 microprocessor. Best of all, we had the source code for Tiny Pascal in Tiny Pascal itself. So a friend and I modified Tiny Pascal so that we could cross-compile into 6502 microprocessor code for the Apple and Atari. The TRS-80 was a Z80 system so that wasn’t a problem.

Using Tiny Pascal, I wrote a very small adventure core that could handle text messages, parsing user input, and manipulating objects (matches, doors, swords, etc.) based on object tables. Remember, everything had to fit into memory, so we wrote another program that compressed text in a way that was fast to decompress on the fly, so we could store approximately 3 characters in every 2 bytes. In the final adventure game, everything including program, the text messages, and data describing the objects had to fit into less than 64 kilobytes of memory. [Source]

Using his system, he wrote Lords of Karma (1978), Empire of the Over-Mind (1979) and G.F.S Sorceress (1980). All were eventually published by Avalon Hill in 1980. Lords of Karma originally came on a single tape that worked for TRS-80, Commodore Pet, and Apple II (a tape published in 1981 also included Atari 400/800).

Some people think highly even now of Empire of the Over-Mind, so I am looking forward to seeing another early auteur in development.

But first, Lords of Karma. The game’s back cover is intentionally evasive about plot / worldbuilding / lack thereof:

However, this line in the manual is interesting:

The object of the game is to get to heaven with as many “karma points” as possible. You get these points performing deeds of kindness and bravery.

This gave me the impression the goal is not getting points by gathering all the possible treasures and hoarding them in a single room for no apparent reason, but rather to do as many good deeds as possible. After so many greedy sojourns I … think I could use a plot like that.

Before starting I also learned the map “partially randomises” [source] so we’ve got some generative roguelike-ness going on.

I actively tried to get Apple II and Commodore Pet versions to work since I’ve been doing a lot of TRS-80 lately, but unfortunately both of them had early crashes, so I had to stick with the old reliable.


You can see we’re not in for epic room descriptions. (I’m somewhat reminded of playing a old-style MUD, with a large landscape of curtly described rooms.) It turns out you are supposed to LOOK upon entering a new place.


Is the topaz a “treasure”? Do we need it? Will we get something for it? I also enjoy how the game feels compelled to mention “up” is “the sky” and “down” is “the ground”.


I guess just wandering into the throne room makes me qualified.


The MUD-like feel holds up: here we have some combat.


Picking up “treasure” did nothing for my karma, so it is possible the treasures are just means to an end (bribery, buying stuff) and not part of the overall goal at all.

At the very least this game feels very different from others I’ve played. Let’s see where it goes!

Posted August 10, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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A History of Early Versions of Adventure   14 comments

I have been trying to detangle the history of Adventure — the Crowther / Woods game — so I know which ports I should be playing in which order for the All the Adventures project. This turns out to have been very complicated as information is spread over a tangle of websites and not all of it is accurate. This is my best attempt to sort everything together.

This document will likely get edited as I tangle more things out. Looking at the full list of modifications gives a small glimpse into the insanity.

Adventure Family Tree, by Nathanael CJE Culver based on work by Russel Dalenberg


I link to sources whenever I can.


In the 1975 academic year Will Crowther starts what we know as Adventure. [Source.]

All Crowther family testimony is consistent with the 1975-76 date range. Responding to a direct request via e-mail, Crowther (2001) dated his original “Adventure” to 1975, “give or take a year.”
— Dennis G. Jerz


Will Crowther stops work on Adventure. The game is noticeably incomplete (there is a sign mentioning maintenance in a lower section of the cave where advancing further causes the game to crash). [Source.]

The most likely timeline places Crowther ceasing work on his original game in early 1976.
— Dennis G. Jerz

Original source code here

Windows compiled version here


Starting March, Don Woods discovers the source code and starts working on it. He produces a 250 point version [source] on his way to finalizing a 350 point version several months later.

I’m relying solely on memory which tends to be fallible (see above: the dwarf ‘vanishes’, not ‘disappears’) but my best recollection is that ADVENT.EXE first appeared on the PDP-10s at ADP (the old First Data in Waltham, Mass.) in 1977. It was an incomplete version which only had about 250 points worth of treasure. I seem to recall that there was nothing past the troll bridge but an ‘under construction’ sign or some such. I believe our copy came from WPI, but word at the time was it was developed at Stanford. Two or three months later we got the full 350 point game.
— John Everett

This version is then ported, in a fairly literal way, by Jim Gillogly into C. [Link to source code.]

The original 350-point version is separately ported July 1977 by Kent Blackett. [Source]


This is followed by Bob Supnik, circa October (date given in his own source code). It has 366 maximum points and the cumulative efforts of Blackett and Supnik (probably) represents the first modification of the game past the Woods version.

Stephen Lidle’s version of Bob Supnik’s code modified for modern compilers, based on a SCOPE version by “R. Emerson, W. Wirth, S. Hobson, W. Hein, S. Connard”, et al.

There’s also a version of Bob Supnik’s port on if-archive, although I have been unable to confirm if it is exactly the same as the 1977 code.

Source code of Bob Supnik version

Kevin Black’s compilation of Bob Supnik’s source for DOS


Gordon Letwin made a 350 point version available by August 1978. It was the first version available on a personal computer — the Heath. [Source] It was not a literal port. [Source]

The version I played was written in FORTRAN. One of the treasures was an African gray parrot in a pirate aviary, accessible by a rubber raft. There was also an office of some kind with the words “how do you spell relief?” on the wall, and after you read the message, you could use “Rolaids” to teleport to and from the well house. I think the magazine at Witt’s End might have been a copy of Byte magazine.
–Carolyn VanEseltine

While this version has been lost, there is a downloadable Osborne port which may be derived from the same source although I have been unable to test it as of yet. The actual 1978 version seems to be a this archive.

Don Woods expands upon his own work, producing a 430-point version with 5 new difficult-to-find treasures.

David Long at University of Chicago starts on his own modification of Adventure (a process which goes on until at least 1980), although no versions from this year exist.

Peter Luckett and Jack Pike finish “Adventure II” by the end of 1978. [Source and executables]


George Richmond (“with the support of Mike Preston”) makes a 500-point version of Adventure in Pascal. [Information source] [Source code]

David Platt writes yet a different modification of Adventure into a 550-point version. [DOS version]

Microsoft Adventure is released as a commercial game for TRS-80 computers, with both v1.0 and v1.1 dated as June 1979. Gordon Letwin, who wrote the Heath port from 1978, is the one responsible. [Info from the Game’s Manual] It includes some slight modifications which mirror the 1978 Heath version somewhat. [Downloads for v1.0 and v1.1]

This year has a “501 point” version of David Long’s code (“Version 5.2/2, October-79”) although it rather confusingly this might be a “side release” by an anonymous contributor. Even more confusingly the version might actually be intended as 500 points (?) and the vanilla compile goes to 496 points (??) although the version online is fixed to be at 501. [Source code] [501 point version compiled for online]

The David Long story gets very messy past this point into the 1980s and I’m not going into every variant from his code, but I should mention the last version from David Long himself was at 751 points. While this version was playable on Compuserve for a while, it now appears to be lost except for a remake by Carl Ruby into QBASIC.

Posted August 8, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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(Another) Lost Game Report   3 comments

One of the games I have on my radar is Joel Mick’s Burial Ground Adventure, which is from 1979 and not that hard to find.

However, the game mentions a followup work called “Damsel in Distress” which I haven’t been able to find anywhere. It is mentioned in this comment from 2014:

I found the complete Odyssey series by Joel Mick (Damsel in Distress, Treasure Island, Journey Through Time) on Marmotking’s Vintage Computer Site, although it appears to be down at the moment. I tried the first game, but I don’t think I’m as patient as you when it comes to tackling primitive parsers. The game gets confused with the objects Horses and Horseshoes, for example. I didn’t get very far.

Marmotking’s Vintage Computer Site appears to be completely defunct, and barely has a few shreds. Since it’s a game that apparently was on the Internet at some point, I figured I’d throw out a request — anyone know where I can find this?

Posted August 5, 2016 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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