House of Thirty Gables (1980)   15 comments

Enter the House of Thirty Gables. But come prepared — for fun! Inside, you will encounter all sorts of weird goings on. Serpents, dragons, wild bears and sulking trolls are just a few of the strange creatures you may run into on your adventure through this House. There are tereasures to be found amid the foreboding surroundings, but it’s going to take some real thought to figure out how to gather them… and stay alive!

Bill Miller did multiple board game conversions for TRS-80 (Backgammon, Chess, Gomoku) and made an Eliza clone (Dr. Chips) but this is his only adventure game. It was published through Instant Software and it’s also their only adventure game (although an ex-employee made The Programmer’s Guild which published quite a few more).

If you’re thinking “haven’t we played a game with this title before?” you might be thinking of Greg Hassett’s House of the Seven Gables. Additionally, if you want to find and download House of Thirty Gables, you have to look for the file marked House of Seven Gables (19xx)(Greg Hassett)[CMD].zip which has been misfiled for a very long time. (It took me an hour of searching and the realization “wait, Greg Hassett didn’t convert anything to machine language until he wrote Enchanted Island” to find it.)

Given the treasure-hunt premise and simple opening (see above) I thought I’d be in for a cozy traditional fantasy jaunt, but in what is becoming a common pattern for this blog, House of Thirty Gables took a hard left early. The closest comparison I can think of is Will ‘O the Wisp, which intentionally depicted the main character as bumbling.

After a few opening rooms where you can grab an ax and an apple comes the first “enemy”.

YOU ARE IN A SMALL DAMP ROOM.
A DAMP CRAWLWAY GOES EAST.
A PASSAGEWAY HEADS NORTH
A DIMLY LIT STAIRCASE LEADS UP.
A SINISTER TROLL SULKS IN THE CORNER.

When I first went through I just walked by the troll with the assumption I’d deal with it later, but eventually out of curiosity I tried KILL TROLL.

KILL THE TROLL WITH WHAT? AX

ONE MIGHTY BLOW FROM YOUR AX HAS KILLED THE POOR INNOCENT TROLL.

If you then LOOK:

A POOR MURDERED TROLL LIES IN THE CORNER.

Shortly after this comes another floor, which includes a dwarf which attacks at random, classic Adventure style:

YOU ARE SUDDENLY CONFRONTED BY AN ANGRY DWARF.

However, if you try to throw the ax:

YOU SEEM TO BE VERY INEPT AT AX THROWING. THE AX BOUNCES OFF THE WALL AND FALLS HARMLESSLY TO THE FLOOR.

Alternately, if you simply try to KILL DWARF and specify with the AX:

THE DWARF IS TOO NIMBLE FOR YOU TO KILL HIM WITH THE AX.

On the same level, there’s a snake guarding an emerald.

YOU ARE IN A LARGE GLOOMY ROOM.
A TUNNEL HEADS WEST.
A TUNNEL HEADS SOUTH.
A LARGE EMERALD RESTS IN THE CORNER.
THE EMERALD IS GUARDED BY A DEADLY GREEN SNAKE.

You’ve got a flute you can play…

THE SNAKE IS MESMERIZED WHEN YOU PLAY THE FLUTE.

…but finishing the puzzle and taking the emerald results in you being chastised for your greed.

YOU HAVE THE EMERALD. HOWEVER, YOUR GREED HAS BEEN VERY COSTLY. YOU HAVE BEEN BITTEN BY THE DEADLY GREEN SNAKE. YOU WILL PERISH IN 10 MOVES UNLESS YOU CAN FIND AN ANTIDOTE.

There are 80 points total. The emerald above yields 10 points, and a ruby from a different part of the map yields another 10 points. All the rest of the points I’ve gotten have come from “gold coins”. Gold coins are spread about mostly at random (kind of like Oldorf’s Revenge) and each one is worth 5 points, so a fair amount of treasure comes from just exploration rather than solving puzzles. The extra gimmick this game has is that the gold can be spent for hints. Continuing the situation above with the poison, if the 10-move limit gets close:

YOU SEEM TO BE HAVING A BIT OF TROUBLE. I WILL GIVE YOU A HINT BUT IT WILL COST YOU A GOLD COIN.
DO YOU WANT THE HINT? YES

THE HINT IS: MAREZEDOATS…

I’m not really sure how to read the hint here; based on other hints I don’t think it’s an anagram or cryptogram. (Relatedly, there’s a stone idol elsewhere with the word TLOLOC on it; trying to SAY TLOLOC doesn’t do anything, so I suspect it may be “encrypted” in the same way.)

Even though hints were a part of original Adventure, this is the first I’ve seen of actual treasure items being used as hint currency. This becomes common later with the Professor Layton games, but that’s much later (the first game came out in 2007), so, good job 1980.

My max score at the moment (not counting getting the emerald which I still die from, or a gold coin from a room where the ceiling crushes me from above) is 45 out of 80, so I know I must be missing a section. I have no idea how, though, because the game is extremely clear as to the exits; they’re always listed as seen in the room descriptions above, each exit on its own line, so there’s no real way for me to have missed something. Except, I must have missed something, right?

Other than the puzzles above I have yet to use a DEAD RAT (where you are continually told “THERE IS A TERRIBLE SMELL” if you tote it around) and I have to reckon with A MAN WITH A FRIENDLY SMILE OFFERING YOU A GOLD COIN where trying to TAKE COIN results in

THE MAN DISAPPEARS IN A PUFF OF SMOKE.
YOU SUDDENLY FEEL LIGHTER.

and your gold coins have vanished and your inventory now has AN I.O.U. FOR 10 GOLD COINS SIGNED BY WORLD POWER SYSTEMS. The I.O.U. is worth 0 points.

Posted September 5, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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15 responses to “House of Thirty Gables (1980)

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  1. Man, this game looks off the chain. Re: “MAREZEDOATS”: it kinda reminds me of that kids’ song: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mairzy_Doats

    I am unsure how that is supposed to help you, though.

    • I hadn’t heard of the song before. It does help! Remember the thing happening is you’re poisoned and looking for an antidote.

      Sing “Mares eat oats and does eat oats and little lambs eat ivy.”

      It’s on the map (not given as an item, but I think the hint was an “intended” part of solving the puzzle).

      There’s sort of a crazy end too. This is going to be an interesting writeup.

      • I would guess “TLOLOC” is a misspelling of the Aztec rain god Tlaloc, and the idol has something to do with rain, water, or storms.

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tl%C4%81loc

      • Hadn’t heard of the song before? I guess you’ve never watched Twin Peaks, or just don’t remember all of the wacky songs that Leland Palmer sings.

        I’m enjoying all of the shame-inducing snark in this one. The talk of murder and the like seems to signal that you should be going about things in a different way, but I guess that’s not actually true.

      • I was slightly too young for Twin Peaks when it came out (I did watch an episode but was just confused) and I’ve never had the chance to catch up. I assume it’s streaming somewhere.

      • There’s an excellent reason the term “murder hobo” has emerged as such a succinct gloss for adventurers in games!

      • Watching an episode of Twin Peaks and being confused is the quintessential Twin Peaks experience.

  2. Came here for the Marezedoats, but someone already tipped you off to its phonetic nature. Gaming After 40 got to the bottom of the weird “World Power Systems” business over at http://gamingafter40.blogspot.com/2012/06/true-crime-in-trs-80-era.html

    • The Marzedoats thing was driving me crazy. I was doing all sorts of wordplay. Had never heard of the song before so I didn’t have a chance.

      I did come across the World Power Systems reference; the Colonel will make an appearance in my last post.

      • The song is generational or particular to certain cultures (or both), I grew up without ever hearing it either. My first exposure was in my 20s during the Legend of Kyrandia closing credits when my girlfriend could not believe that she had to explain the reference to me.

      • I (b. 1971) was somewhat familiar with Mairzydoats as a song somewhat older people–I forget whether it was my brother or parents–would sing to annoy me. I think it probably just gradually faded out of consciousness. Then there was a scene from Woody Allen’s Radio Days with the song playing, but that was after this game, so it can’t be the source. But I did instantly associate it with the clue, so it may not have been unreasonable in 1980.

        I wondered if feeding the dead rat to the troll might do something?

    • I certainly only ever heard the mairzydotes song from my mom; it was never something that I got from any child-aimed media. (I think it was central to the plot of a movie from the 50s or something and that was why she knew it?)

  3. Regarding the antidote, do you have to tb gb gur Qnzc Ebbz Pbirerq Jvgu Vil, naq RNG GUR VIL?

  4. Pingback: House of Thirty Gables: The Art of the Con | Renga in Blue

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