His Majesty’s Ship ‘Impetuous’ (1980)   11 comments

Robert Lafore has previously graced this blog with Local Call for Death, Two Heads of the Coin, and Six Micro Stories.

All of them use the same basic interaction gimmick of searching input for keywords, Eliza-style, rather than making full attempts at understanding. If the game is looking for “YES”, both




are interpreted in the same way. This worked decently in Lafore’s two mystery games (Local Call for Death and Two Heads of the Coin) in that a lot of the interaction was just inquiring after specific pieces of evidence or objects; Local Call for Death even included a room that could be examined like a traditional adventure game.

Six Micro Stories was somewhat less successful, insofar as of the six titular stories, most of them demanded a more open conversational style where it was often possible to say the “right thing” but in the wrong way. For example, in The Fatal Admission, the player is asked a question that is a trap; saying YES is clearly the wrong thing, but saying NO also leads to death. To “win” requires vociferously denying the entire premise of the question to begin with, which can be done in a wide multitude of ways, not all of them conducive to checking for keywords.

His Majesty’s Ship `Impetuous’ changes up the style again, and feels a little like a traditional choose-your-own-adventure. The player is the captain of the Impetuous during a time of war with France and Spain. The game cues the player with specific prompts to respond to.

However, this is not mechanically the same as a choice-based game. While some prompts really do only have the choices given (the one below tests for YES and NO) it’s possible to “type outside the box” so to speak.

Notice the opening quote mark; the game encourages you to punctuate correctly and end with a period mark and quote mark of your own.

I’m going to describe an early event in the game. I’d like to know how you (my faithful readers) would respond; please try to make a comment without reading the other comments first, because I want to tabulate this like a survey. (I will spoil the entire structure of the game next time and really dig into the ramifications of this style.)

In the meantime, if you’d like to just try the game yourself, here is a link to play the TRS-80 version online.

Previously (before the story even started) the Impetuous had done battle with a small French frigate. While winning handily, in the process the well-liked Second Lieutenant Fallow was killed. All were mournful, but especially his brother, Midshipman Fallow. The ship settled in a bay, in order to bury the Second Lieutenant on land.

“Don’t humor me!” Fallow cried, pulling away. “It doesn’t bring back my brother!” His voice had risen to a shriek and the crew stopped and craned their heads to see.

“You must be brave,” Walton said. “He died in the line of duty, for king and country.”

Fallow looked up at him. “Damn the king!” he screamed. “Damn duty, damn the navy, damn you all!” He stopped suddenly, his eyes widening in terror,
realizing what he had said. The crew had fallen so silent that Walton could hear a timber groan somewhere in the depths of the hold.

“I’m sorry sir, I don’t know what I was saying! I don’t know what came over me, I’m sorry, oh, sir…”

Unfortunately, young Fallow here had made a grave mistake: speaking “disrespectfully of the sovereign” gives a sentence of death.

In theory Captain Walton had the power to pardon any crime aboard his ship. Yet if he pardoned young Fallow, discipline would suffer — probably irreparably — as the crew concluded that mutinous acts would not be punished, and that Walton showed favoritism to his officers.

If only there was some way to save young Fallow’s life without pardoning him! But what? Whatever decision he made, Walton knew Fallow’s fate had to be settled the next day, lest delay itself cause discipline to suffer.

The next day, the older brother’s body was taken to land.

Sailing-Master Stayson had remonstrated when Walton ordered Young Fallow into the boat.

“But sir,” he had said, surprised into questioning his captain, “what if he tries to escape?”

“I’ll take my pistols, Walton had told him harshly. It’s his last chance to say goodbye to his brother.”

To hang Fallow, or to pardon him? Or–was there another alternative?

Walton made up his mind. He drew young Fallow away from the grave, out of earshot of the others. He looked the lad in the eye.

“I’ve decided to…

What do you say? Remember, try to make a comment without reading the other comments first.

Posted December 3, 2019 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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11 responses to “His Majesty’s Ship ‘Impetuous’ (1980)

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  2. I’m inclined to say MAROON FALLOW. But I played Jimmy Maher’s choicescript version so I suspect that I saw that as an explicit choice there.

  3. “…sentence you to death, but allow you to escape.”

  4. Jimmy Maher created a browser version of this one: https://www.filfre.net/misc/impetuous/mygame/index.html
    It really streamlines the experience and makes for a nice little clickfest.

  5. “I’ve decided to shoot you with an unloaded or empty pistol. When you hear my gunshot, fall down and play dead or feign or fake your death. Do not move again until we have left. From there you are on your own. Good luck lad. Now, I order you to run.”

    (If this “solution” is in fact recognizable by the game, I’m banking on perhaps it looking for keywords like “unloaded,” “empty,” “feign,” “fake,” or “play dead.”)

    (Haven’t read the other comments before posting this.)


  7. “I’ve decided to pardon you. The men will understand, in the circumstances.”

  8. pardon the boy.”

  9. I unfortunately remember Jimmy Maher’s port and its solution, but also recall first reading about the program in a review in an old issue of 80 Micro, where the reviewer struggled mightily to get his third option recognized and finally took it out on Fallow…

    • Nice to read a contemporary reaction. Robert Lafore discusses this particular puzzle in a later essay and definitely intended people to get stuck the first itme (which I’ll be quoting when I do this follow-up post to this — probably will finish up tonight or tomorrow).

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