Adventure 448: The Shape of a God   7 comments

I’ve gotten through all the new material and found all the new treasures (all six of them). The ending is apparently unchanged (and I’ve, uh, seen it before a few times) so I skipped getting to that. Special thanks to Arthur O’Dwyer who came up with a full walkthrough that I needed to refer to multiple times.

Just to clarify from my last post, the years ’78, ’79, ’80, and ’82 are almost certainly graduation years. So the initial crew of four at Brown University (Dave Wallace, Dave Nebiker, Eric Albert, Les Wu) did their work in April 1978, and Eric Swenson (“EJS@MC”) converted the game for the MIT system a year later.

April 1978 is extremely early; there were no adventures for home computers as of yet, the first coming out in summer of that year (a conversion of Adventure for Heathkit). Adventureland and Pirate Adventure came later. The authors had Zork to refer to, but other than than that they almost certainly hadn’t seen anyone else’s efforts (like Mystery Mansion, Wander, or Acheton) so this is in the earliest depths of adventure gaming, where people were making it up as they went.

The immortal bird and snake fight, which I’ve now seen on loop across many iterations of Adventure, including Crowther’s original. Even this scene has had additions — in particular Don Woods in his “version 2” Adventure put a scene where you can bring the bird outside to a forest — but it generally has been left untouched. Picture from the AMC Halt and Catch Fire version of Adventure.

When I approach one of these games, I always started with my Trizbort file of 350-point Adventure, assuming it gets used as a base, and then run through the map marking as I go which rooms have been checked. Once I start to hit new geography I add new rooms with a special color so I know they weren’t part of the original map.

I found the Throne Room last time, but I had the bad luck of finding the last extra rooms right at the end of my survey. I had been starting to think the Throne Room was the entrance to all the new material, but no: the new stuff is shuffled up next to the entrances to the mazes (all alike and all different).

Some tweaks are minor; the silver bars got moved to a new room, the pirate lair got moved slightly for some reason. The essential “main attractions” are a wizard tower and a druid temple. They are essentially independent of the main game, with one exception.

Here is how the wizard tower opens:

You’re on a spiral staircase lit by torches with an eastern door.

The game uses Adventure’s unfortunate feature of “probabilistic exits” to make the geography messy here. If you go up one floor, going east kills you

You enter a thick, cold, gray mist. You seem to be falling forever and the light slowly fades away.

If you go up twice (without interference from the random number generator) and east, you can find a dagger

You’re in a small hexagonal room with a single door in the west wall.

There is a short ornate dagger here.

but in all likelihood you’ll hit a few “loops” that make the staircase seem endless, and if you aren’t being careful, kill yourself as shown above. This has been a source of endless suffering for me in the past (see especially the “secret exit” room from a maze in Adventure 500) but at least here it was thematic — I totally expect a wizard tower to have weird, TARDIS-like geographical oddities going for it.

Incidentally, going one room up again — with an identical staircase room — and trying to go east leads to death

A hoard of angry dwarves charges through the door as soon as you open it. They are brandishing all manner of weapon and you get crushed in their rush downstairs.

but we can get in there from a different direction. Still, the preponderance of confusion and deathtraps feels slightly off from 350-point Adventure.

There’s something higher if you keep going up but you need an item first to reach the top, which you can find from the magician himself, who you’ll find by going down rather than up.

You’re in the Magician’s Chamber, a large pentagonal room with a spiral staircase leading up from the center of the room.

The magician’s staff is leaning against the wall.

The Magician is here gesturing frantically in front of the elven door.

There is a massive stone Elven door set into the western wall. The surface of the door is covered with indecipherable runes.

Just like the dwarves, violence is the answer to this one.

THROW DAGGER

Your dagger strikes the Magician, who stumbles back in astonishment and vanishes in a cloud of orange smoke.

It maybe should have occurred to me I just killed a Gandalf-analogue, frustrated at trying to get an elven door open, because the next step is the magic word FRIEND. The source code has the text “Speak, friend, to enter” but I wasn’t able to get it to appear; READ DOOR or READ RUNES don’t work.

(The famous door showed up a year later in a game set in actual-Tolkien-verse, Ringen, although in that game you had to nerd out and use the Elvish version of the word.)

SAY FRIEND

You’re in a long straight corridor ending in a massive slab of stone to the east. To the west a slightly smaller corridor continues while there is a passage leading up to the northwest and another leading down to the southwest.

Nearby you can get a “gleaming coat of Mithril chain mail” which you can’t wear (“The mithril mail is a small size, even for dwarves. You don’t stand chance of getting it on yourself.”) and explore some more Tolkien-fan-fiction room descriptions, before finally arriving back in the magic spiral staircase.

You’re in the Dwarves Great Hall where in the past were held great feasts and displayed the most beautiful of their craft. Now the hall look as if a great battle had been waged here. All the smaller passages leading out have been blocked intentionally. The only exits are wide staircases leading down to the west and up to the east.

Once you’re holding the wizard staff (which you can scoop up after killing the magician) you’re also able to get out of the loop in the spiral stair to make it to the top of the tower.

You’re in the magician’s tower, a small cluttered room filled with all manner of strange artifacts, the purpose of which cannot be kenned immediately. The walls of the chamber are themselves cloaked in shadows which seem to move of their own accord. There is one small window in the wall but it is far over your head and lets in a minimum of light. Torches set in the wall across from the window supplement the meager light but the entire room seems to disapprove of light and gloom clings to all the corners. In the center of the room a spiral staircase descends into to the lower levels of the cave.

There is a dusty old broom lying on the ground.

There is a large map on the wall.

There is an unadorned gold ring on a hook on the wall!

The Magician’s Book of Spells is here.

READ MAP

The map shows a small complex of rooms connected to the throne
room by a passage beneath the throne.

READ BOOK

The book seems to be a big book of fairy tales. This particular tale concerns an adventurer wandering around in a cave.

The ring counts as a treasure and “being royal”. The ring and the crown from last time are useful for a scene elsewhere; one outside of the wizard tower, but only a few steps away.

You are at a crossover of a high N/S passage and a low E/W one. You are in a slightly sloping N/S passage which seems to fall off sharply not too far to the North. There is a ONE WAY sign pointing in that direction.

The new passage (heading north) leads down to a druid temple.

You are in a large chamber decorated like an ancient Druid temple continuing to the west with passages leading off to the north and south. A large stone dominates the center of the room.

The sword is firmly imbedded in the stone!

I needed to check the walkthrough here; GET SWORD just says “You can’t be serious!” and you have to PULL SWORD. You need to be sufficiently royal (wearing both crown and ring) otherwise you get this:

PULL

TUG! GROAN! It seems to be stuck. Shall I keep pulling?

YES

Oh Dear! It seems I pulled a little too hard. The sword has shattered into many tiny pieces.

At least it asks before you step into your own softlock? If things go well, you get a treasure instead. (No, you can’t fight stuff with the sword.)

PULL

Voila! The sword has slid effortlessly out of the stone.

There’s a small area nearby where you can SWEEP with the broom from the wizard tower in hand to find a secret area.

The passage leads northeast and northwest.

There is a large piece of crystal here carved to the shape of a God!

If you have the crown and ring, you can escape and take a secret passage back to the Throne Room.

There is one more secret treasure; the broom is useful elsewhere. If you have your Adventure map memorized, you might know where it goes:

You are in a large room full of dusty rocks. There is a big hole in the floor. There are cracks everywhere, and a passage leading east.

SWEEP

Your sweeping stirs up the dust and reveals a piece of paper on the ground.

GET PAPER

OK.

READ PAPER

“Congratulations. Due to your extraordinary abilities as an adventurer, you have won a full four-year scholarship to the College of your choice — limited to Cambridge Massachusetts. Sorry, but Harvard excluded. Void where prohibited by law.”

The code is structured such that Arthur O’Dwyer and Nathanael Culver suspect changing the diploma from Brown to MIT is the only extra change when EJS@MC converted the Brown game to the MIT system.

I very much appreciate that this piece of early history got unearthed — even relative to other “mods” of Adventure this is quite early, only beaten by Adventure 366 (which only tweaked the game in a minor way) and possibly Crystal Cave (which is more like an entirely new game based on the Adventure base game, and where I’m still very uncertain on the dating).

The broom in particular applying both to the self-contained world of the expanded universe and making a new use for an old location was quite delightful. I think the randomizer was perhaps too heavily abused in the wizard tower, but at least there was a plot reason for it. Just to get very specific at the code level (referring to O’Dwyer’s work again), here is the spot on the stairs next to the dagger.

East goes to the dagger room.

Down goes two steps down with probability 60%, one step up with probability 15%, and loops to the room the player is already in with probability 25%.

Up goes one step up with probability 60%, two steps down with probability 15%, and loops to itself with probability 25%.

Just dropping a few items as reference alleviates the problem here, but it’s still a bit unnerving to play through.

One final update to mention: Adventure 448 is now enshrined within Nathanael Culver’s list of Adventure variants, which means it … exists for real, I suppose?

Posted February 26, 2021 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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7 responses to “Adventure 448: The Shape of a God

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  1. I was going to write a comment explaining the “READ ELVEN DOOR” business, but I decided to make the comment into a blog post of my own! Massively spoilery post over here. For anyone who wants a hint without a *complete* spoiler, just look at the URL of this post. ;)
    https://quuxplusone.github.io/blog/2021/02/27/adv448-spellbook-easter-eggs/#speak-friend-and-enter

    • Reading that post, my eye was caught by a line from elsewhere in the game: “A huge green fierce dragon bars the way!”

      That order of adjectives is palpably wrong – “fierce green dragon” is much more natural-sounding. But it calls to mind – in a way tht was surely unintentional on the writers’ part – Tolkien’s famous “green great dragon” observation about the proper ordering of adjectives in English, which most native speakers never notice as a widespread rule but still intuitively understand.

      Andrew McCarthy
      • FWIW, Crowther’s game already has the “huge green fierce snake” in the Hall of the Mountain King, so this particular phrase is just Don Woods doing a funny callback to that. (Similarly, Crowther had the “maze of twisty little passages, all alike” and Woods added the “maze of twisty little passages, all different.”) But as for why *Crowther* chose to make it a “huge green fierce snake” instead of a “huge fierce green snake,” I don’t know. Honestly with those specific adjectives I’m not sure one *is* clearly preferable to the other; they all sound pretty awkward. But, perhaps coincidentally, Crowther’s “huge green fierce” does have the literary effect of revealing attributes in the order the brass-lamp-toting adventurer would naturally spot them: “oh shi it’s huge” “oh shi it’s green” “oh shi it’s FIERCE TOO”

      • The reason for Tolkien’s mistake [as a child], since you ask, is that adjectives in English absolutely have to be in this order: opinion-size-age-shape-colour-origin-material-purpose Noun. So you can have a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife. But if you mess with that word order in the slightest you’ll sound like a maniac. It’s an odd thing that every English speaker uses that list, but almost none of us could write it out.

        (Mark Forsyth, The Elements of Eloquence)

      • This is a pet peeve, but I think Forsyth’s statement of that is too dogmatic. My favorite ghost story is Joanna Russ’s “The Little Dirty Girl” and a site that I’m not going to link because it’s advertising points out that “Big Bad Wolf” violates the order too. As does Raymond Carver’s “Eating is a small, good thing in a time like this.” And for some reason there “good small thing” would sound terrible.

  2. “an unknown EJS@MC” – that’s Eric Swenson, who’s the other major contributor to the ITS restoration project beside Lars. Eric restored lots of games for the system in 2018; you can see the ticket about this variant of Adventure here: https://github.com/PDP-10/its/issues/798

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