The Troll’s Treasure (1981)   Leave a comment

We’ve encountered CLOAD with CIA Adventure (1980) and Frankenstein Adventure (1981), both which were relatively solid games (Frankenstein is legitimately good). The Troll’s Treasure is from the September 1981 issue of the TRS-80 magazine-on-tape.

Via Ira Goldklang.

The Troll’s Treasure is credited in the source code to Richard Moffie of Canoga Park, California. It is, as far as I have been able to find, his only game or product related to computers of any kind.

It is another “intentionally compact” game, taking 11K of space, and it pares down the verb set to directions and this list:


I did use my verb chart to figure these out, which is good because RUB and MAKE would have been annoying to look for in a verb-space where most of it is negative.

The goal is to find five treasures. There’s not much in the way of gimmicks here except for the titular troll, which I’ll get to.

This is a case where a straightforward walkthrough represents an extremely simple plot, but in actual play I did things out of sequence enough — and had to comb over previously visited rooms enough — that my personal journey felt different. I’ll give the straightforward plot first:

You start by finding a invisibility potion (floating in the sea nearby), a rope (in the sack from the opening room) and a diamond (on a large shield in a cave, treasure #1). There’s a cottage with some ghouls who chase you out, but a swing of the invisibility potion will let you sneak in and steal food and a sword.

The food is helpful for a nearby inn, where there’s a “mysterious stranger” who looks hungry. Give him the food and he’ll explain the treasures need to go into the inn (somewhat meta, yes) and he leaves and hands you some keys.

Everything else is then blocked; there’s a unswimmable river with some logs. The key is to drop the rope and MAKE RAFT, which will let you GO RAFT to the second part of the game.

There’s a locked house; the keys let you break in and find a jade statue (treasure #2) and a silver ring (treasure #3).

There’s also a cave with some gold coins (treasure #4). Grab the coins and a troll appears whom you can kill with the sword and find a gold necklace (treasure #5). Return all the treasures to the inn and you win.

Here’s my actual playthrough:

I started by finding an invisibility potion, a rope, and a diamond. I wasn’t sure where the diamond went. I tested multiple locations by typing SCORE and eventually found the inn was the right place. I was unable to TALK STRANGER or do anything like that so I was stuck there.

It took me a long time to realize you could GO STRANGER to get closer.

I found a place with the description:

You are in a clearing in the forest. There is a cottage ahead to the south.

Going south:

You are at a one room cottage.

For a rather long time I interpreted this room as being in the cottage. Yes, it says “at”, but I was thinking the “cottage ahead” meant going south would put me inside the cottage. Eventually I would realize GO COTTAGE was possible, but let me continue my actual sequence–

I had thought of making a raft fairly early:

You can’t do that…yet!

I was holding the rope that went with the logs; the game needs you to have dropped them. Amidst the wandering I messed around with a spider, which I didn’t even mention in my straightforward walkthrough:

The spider isn’t aggressive; here I am experimenting with the invisibility potion to see if I can get anything useful to happen. I suspect the author had some plans for the spider but dropped them.

After being stuck for long enough I went back, decided a raft had to be the answer, and realized the game wanted me to have dropped the rope. (Note I still hadn’t gone into the cottage yet.)

Taking the raft across, I found the locked house (but no keys, remember you need the food from the cottage to give to the stranger. I found the cave, grabbed the gold coins, and started being chased by a troll. I was able to make it to the raft but if I went back the troll was waiting for me.

I experimented with the invisibility potion, which did work on the troll temporarily.

I had some theory maybe I could trick the troll into bashing the door in.

Eventually — using my honed-by-1980/1981-games senses — I tried the command HELP in various locations, expecting the game to perhaps be one of those cases where the HELP text is 100% essential information. I came back across the cottage area and got this:

They can’t attack what they can’t see

I honestly thought I had hit a bug; it still didn’t strike me until later that I wasn’t in the cottage! Once I finally puzzled it out (after a few more visits), getting the food and sword made most of the game fall easily. I killed the spider (again, no purpose to it), fed the stranger, got the keys over to the house…

…and got tricked by another optional location. The HELP tells you magic can assist, and I realized I hadn’t used the RUB verb yet. RUB RING teleports you to a set of random locations, and was fun to play around with; finding the effect isn’t strictly necessary to winning, though.

Getting the troll’s treasure came last, which is weird since it’s in the title, but the game does such an elaborate job with the troll chasing you, I assumed that chasing had to be part of the puzzle; that I was supposed to outwit the troll rather than killing it. At least, the sequence was a little more epic: I had run off via the raft, and saved the final cleaving for a return trip:

One necklace deposit later, and it all was over.

Here’s the curious thing: so many of my issues above were essentially game flaws. GO STRANGER in particular was straight-up bad, as was the initial response to MAKE RAFT. The cottage was half my fault but the game is inconsistent about locations: the cave with the diamond and the troll cave you just enter via compass navigation, as opposed to GO CAVE.

Yet, if I hadn’t had the issues, I think the game might have been a little duller experience? I walked back and forth enough across the map that it started to feel like a place, and even though the troll can be defeated in the first move, having a significant amount of gameplay dedicated to being chased made it a more interesting foe. I’m reminded a little of how in the original Cranston Manor I spent wasted time in almost objectively bad geography, but the weird obtuseness led me to spend time and “feel” the world. Even a sloppy and “bad” finesse can serve a good purpose (especially if the 1981-era author doesn’t know a better substitute).

The CLOAD text mentions a feature I never used: only the first and last word are recognized so TAKE THE SWORD is understood rather than just TAKE SWORD. Something of a budget parser.

Posted November 13, 2020 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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