Quondam: Beware of Puns   10 comments

I’ve made more progress and still managed to resist the lure of the walkthrough. My main breakthrough was simply finding I could go northwest from the desert and enter a new section.

Included in that area is a place where I can retrieve the items I deposited in “Customs” (the place that had me stuck last time). I also reached what I’ll call an “accidental solve” — if you try to leave the room where you can rescue your treasures, a hermit looks at your inventory disapprovingly and slams the door, trapping you inside. Let me backtrack a little:

You are in a small town square full of churches and monuments. The Spanish Inquisition are here, debating your future.

>W
The crows bars your way.

>PRAY
The throng draws back and leaves a way free.

I had the luck of being stuck at this part (again, just not finding the northwest passage from the desert) and in an attempt to try everything, did this again after the first PRAY in the same location:

>PRAY
A cardinal lays a cross before you.

Eeeeeeeevil. In any case, if you’re carrying the cross (and I was, by luck) the hermit doesn’t shut you away.

I was also able to store treasures permanently.

This is a sunny but cool area. There is a pool of water here, with mud banks by it, and a holiday cottage to the nowrthwest. A path leads west, and all southward directions lead to desert.

>DIG
You find a plate set in the mud, reading ‘Mud bank – alluvial section. Deposits only’ The mud seeps back.

>DEPOSIT DIAMOND
The diamond is now in your account.

Unlike the Customs area I mentioned (where you can retrieve your deposits nearby), this officially “scores” the treasure. This moment is worth a little discussion.

I’ve always thought of puns as a deeply British thing, possibly because of the British crossword. They have the rule that every clue hints at its word (or phrase) twice, except one of the hints is likely some manner of wordplay.

Puzzle jumbled in game (6)

In any case, this section makes clear we’re not in a world-environment in the typical sense; rather, we are in a world of symbols where items can mean things on multiple levels, where signifiers are detached from the things they signify, and the computer-narrator which is supposedly the “eyes and ears” of the player is out to deceive and trick. (The sandwich from last time is a good instance of this — the whole segment is one that could not reasonably happen in real life, but was instead a challenge to extract a hidden layer of meaning.)

The game at least set the player up to think in terms of “deposit”, but the “allevial deposit” of a mud bank is still an outrageous pun on the level of a particularly fiendish crossword in The Guardian.

I feel like I’m not conveying everything by just talking about it, so here’s an opportunity for you, the readers, to solve a puzzle from the game. This didn’t require resolving a “pun” exactly but I did have to re-contextualize my visualization of an object in the game. Everything you need is in the text. How do you get by the invisible barriers?

You’re within a circle of stones. There are triliths to the northwest, southwest, and southeast; a pair of monoliths flanks the northeast path.

>SW
An invisible force stops you.

>SE
An invisible force stops you.

>U
You are on top of a pillar. Nearby is another.

>INV
You are holding:
A harp!
A rock
Half a ticket
A metal rod
Some mushrooms
A stone slab
A sapling
A rope

From The Fall of Babylon (1555) by Jean Duvet.

Posted September 18, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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10 responses to “Quondam: Beware of Puns

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  1. Yup, alluvial DEPOSITs in a mud BANK. Welcome to Quondam.

    I hadn’t solved this Stonehenge puzzle on my last visit there, but I realize now I’m missing an item you have.

  2. The scoring system itself has some oddities. You start the game with 18 out of 250 points. And I’ve found at least one action that progresses the game but also lowers your score. Not sure what’s going on there yet.

    • If you mean running the treasure through Customs, I believe the score reduction was from “duty is charged”.

      I’d believe it if score reduction happened elsewhere, too. In a different game, that’d be a hint that something was wrong. In this game, who knows?

      • I just went back to check. I lost 5 points for simply *arriving* at Customs, and then I lost another 2 points for “declaring” a treasure at Customs (I used the jeweled hilt for this test).

      • Maybe there’s a “better” way to arrive at Customs (not using the “naughty” word)?

        Will shelve that with all the other mysteries I still have to solve.

  3. Does Quondam have a two-verb parser? I guess once you’re on top of the pillar, one of the monoliths, DROP SLAB should convert the monoliths into a trilith. Though it seems like that would make slightly more sense if the invisible barriers were where the triliths weren’t.

    The bank deposit thing strikes me as not that evil as this game goes–DIG is a natural thing to try when you’re around the mud banks, and though the alluvial deposit is an awful (fantastic) pun it does make it pretty clear that it’s the other kind of bank and deposit. This seems more convoluted on the designer’s side than on the player’s side, if that makes sense.

    • DROP SLAB is right. (The pillars are conveyed as *large* — if you try to jump from the top of one you die — so it means you are toting an absurdly huge rock around. So huge that I don’t think absurd adventurer pants really make sense here – it’s more like while it’s in your inventory, it becomes the *idea* of a large slab of rock.)

      The puzzle with the mud bank is definitely telegraphed, and possibly even fair, but it does require the player to complete the pun. The player has to be operating on a level that lets them perform a metaphorical act rather than a physical one.

      • I had a similar scale issue with the rock in For A Change (spoiler: You have a rock!). There was a puzzle involving doing something with the rock where the rock turned out to be a different size than I thought. Which, having just fired up For A Change for three turns, makes me think I must have flat-out forgot to examine the stone, because the game straight-up tells you it is nothing more than a pebble. I’m really bad at interactive fiction sometimes.

      • Ah, I admit to only skimming the inventory list, but I was thinking the “invisible force” might be the electrostatic force bonding the atoms together into a rock — that by walking in the directions of the triliths, you were
        literally trying to walk through solid stone (the answer would be to walk in one of the directions *not* mentioned). In any case, I’ve just recently read through all the old posts in this series, and am looking forward to what else you find in the future, in this game and others.

      • @WovenTales: That would be kind of awesome. So far, I think if you need to pick between a magical-symbolic solve and a physics solve, this game is going to go with the former. Given the author is a mathematician that might change later.

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