Quarterstaff: The Threshold   Leave a comment

I haven’t had many games so actively hostile to the act of playing them as Quarterstaff. After multiple concerted attempts I finally made enough progress to write about. (Two large puzzle spoilers are included below.)

1. My biggest discovery since last time is that “break X” actually works on a variety of things as long as you repeat it enough times.

This issue came up with Adventure 500 where it took multiple tries to take down a dragon. With this game when I was testing out various ways of destroying a door, I made enough attempts with “this isn’t helpful” messages that I assumed you just couldn’t just club doors down (or at least assume they only needed clubbing in specific circumstances).

At the time I theorized this sort of thing was totally ok in an RPG, and here I am getting fouled up by the same behavior in an RPG. So I should add the condition that there should be some feedback that what you are doing might be useful, even if it will take more attempts. I might compare it to boss monsters in a bad 80s platformer that don’t give any feedback that you are doing any damage (flashing, health bar, or the like), and where you only find out 10 minutes later you were supposed to be shooting the monster in the feet and not the eyes.

2. Inventory capacity is a bear. Some sessions I’ve spent fully half my gameplay commands just trying to juggle objects so people could carry them.

Especially bad was my archer Eolene, after I used some arrows out of her quiver. Each arrow was a different object (with a different color name). I had to pick up and put each arrow back in her quiver individually. Except sometimes, she would mysteriously be able to carry less than when she started, so she wouldn’t actually be able to pick up all the arrows she just used, so I would have to drop some items, then pick up the arrows and store the arrows, then pick up the items again.

While all the inventory shuffling is going on the other part members keep insisting on commands. You can try to set them on GUARD or turn them off in various ways, but quite often there would be some complication to muck that up; plus a lot of the inventory juggling ended up being between characters.

3. Some things were entirely not worth the effort of figuring out.

Last time, I was stuck on a puzzle where one door had a “no man may pass” message and the one following had a “no woman may pass” message. This is where I finally broke down and used the hint system. and found out that I could bring a large container, stuff one of my smaller men in it, have a woman drag the container past the “no man” threshold, and then the man could hop out and go through the remaining door.

This is incidentally a case of magic not revealing enough mechanics to understand a puzzle. Apparently the “no X may pass” was done by “sight”, but there’s no indication of a “magical eye” or such; until I saw the hint I expected the “no X” simply just sensed gender. (The hints also mention getting a character who can change gender or one who is non-binary, but I don’t think either exists in this game.)

I’m not going to get into detail on the convoluted process of setting up the character-dragging (teleportation and two separate inventory juggles were needed) but suffice it to say it took me an hour to set things up, at which point I found … a cure disease potion, and a bag that let me teleport out.

4. There is an almost spectacularly evil puzzle that required parsing the instructions of a poem inside of an iron pentagram.

Star of frames.
Multi-headed breather of flames,
Make its blood like its breath.
You must seek your death.
Thrust quick to thy heart,
‘Tis dour doing but your part
Take the key from the trap,
‘Ware the plaque where it be.

Again, I needed a hint. This turned out to involve a.) finding some “hydra blood” from a room far back b.) setting the blood on fire (??) and then c.) killing yourself, not with ATTACK ME but with the special command SUICIDE (???)

If it was easy to experiment, this *might* have been a reasonable puzzle (in retrospect, all the pieces are there), but as I already pointed out the game has a brutal inventory limit, and heading back through a maze / traps / rooms that require two people to open / etc. to find more items can be an expedition in itself, so there’s no good way to do a lot of testing.

5. The apparent end goal (from some random backstory book I found, but also the subtitle of the game) is to get to the Tomb of Setmoth (who seems to be a demon) and destroy him. I now have a Tomb Key, and know where to go. Expect either “Finished!” or possibly “Deleted from my hard drive and then I took the hard drive out of my computer and buried it in the desert” next time.

Posted June 7, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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