Murdac: Perplexed and Gratified   14 comments

Murdac has been relatively brisk for a Phoenix game. I remember with Philosopher’s Quest sometimes taking a week to get one smidge of progress, but all the dominoes have been falling here.

From the manual, a “letter” version of the game’s blurb. We haven’t met the “cannibals” yet but we will in this post.

I left off entering the haunted house without death by furniture but otherwise still being killed by flying sofas.

> e
A large item of furniture flies across the room, hurled by a poltergeist. With the aid of the pillow you fend it off, slightly bruising your right arm.
You are in a large bedroom in the haunted house.
There are exits to the north, south, east and west.

Most directions of movement here will kill you.

My solution came not too long after, and I think the act of writing about the puzzle may have helped. I speculated about it being a “gimmick maze” and that there is no room to slow down and check an item without getting clobbered. This suggests that the text itself has a clue, and so I checked over my transcripts of randomly successful steps. It turns out that the line about “bruising your right arm” varies; it can bruise your left arm, or the item of furniture can “narrowly” miss “your face.”

I realized this is indicating the direction the poltergeist was at that moment, and that I needed to move away from it, accounting for relative direction of travel. That is, if you go east, and get hit on the left, then for your next step you need to go south. If you go south, and get hit in the face, then you need to u-turn and go north.

Illustrated: moving east, being attacked from the left (that is, from the north) requiring you to move south to stay alive.

Enough turns of this — eight, which I suppose is enough the author decided you weren’t just getting lucky but actually solved the puzzle — and you escape the house altogether:

> e
A large item of furniture flies across the room, hurled by a poltergeist. With the aid of the pillow you fend it off, slightly bruising your left arm.
You are in the living-room (!) of the haunted house.
There are exits to the north, south, east and west.
> s
A large item of furniture flies across the room, hurled by a poltergeist. With the aid of the pillow you fend it off, slightly bruising your left arm.
You are in a large bedroom in the haunted house.
There are exits to the north, south, east and west.
> w
You are on a deserted railway platform. The haunted house is to your south and the platform extends east and west. You can hear the sounds of passengers although you can see nobody.
There is a pile of sparkling peridots here!

You’ll get squished if you try to go back in the house, but with peridots in hand, you can walk to the north even though the game does not mention an exit.

> w
The platform seems to move with you, and you make no progress.
> e
The platform seems to move with you, and you make no progress.
> n
You step out into space, and find that you are on an invisible train which was waiting at the platform. This Ghost Train gives a piercing HOOT and then acclerates rapidly. As your eyes accustom themselves to your surroundings, you catch sight of various spectral commuters reading The Phantasmal Times and other ethereal papers. There is no sign of the ticket in-spectre. After a while the train halts and you dismount to discover that…

You are in an extremely long dark east-west tunnel. The ground is stony, almost as if it had been designed to carry railway tracks.

The “railway tunnel” is back on the main map, a tunnel that looks like a railway but prior to this moment didn’t take the designation literally.

Before pressing forward, I’d like to linger on the moment of solution a little longer, in a “theory of puzzles” way. I had the “trick maze” idea long in my head before putting it down, and had scanned the text for possible tells. I think I still wasn’t fully invested in scanning the text because I had in the back of my head related puzzles, like the ice one from Acheton which revolved around an item that pointed in the right direction, or the Hamil one where you follow a creature that you intentionally let go. While I also previously thought “you have an inability to do any actions other than move without dying” it didn’t quite click that the two facts together meant that the Acheton and Hamil puzzles I just mentioned are impossible. So the act of writing the two facts down together made me recognize the logic and made me more convinced I just needed to find a textual change, and then spotted the difference only about 5 minutes after I pressed the “Publish” button on WordPress.

…right, enough side-trek. Next I decided to finally break down and go through my “standard verb list”, checking which verbs are recognized by the game.

Not a long list, which can be awkward for game-play (sorry, you can’t PUT the iron rod on the wires, only THROW it) but good for puzzle-solving. I thought backwards from each verb, assuming they have a purpose (in 80s games, this is often true). I realized I hadn’t tried to WAVE anything so I went through my object list and decided the only item it made sense to do that was a string of beads. I then checked each of my remaining monsters (centaur, goblin, manticore, lion) to see if I could get a reaction, and hit gold (or rather, diamond) with the lion.

As you wave the beads at the lion, it seems to be mesmerised, and in fact quickly falls into a deep sleep.
Examining the sleeping animal, you see that it has a thorn in its paw.
You extract the thorn from the lion’s paw with great care, to discover that it is in fact a diamond tiepin! The lion awakes, feeling much more amicable towards you.
You are in the lion’s den, a rectangular room with solid stone walls. The exit is to the southwest.
There is a lion here, purring docilely.

Incidentally, the diamond tiepin is not just a treasure. I was toting around a “small wax dummy” which suggested to me a voodoo-doll type scenario, and I noticed STAB was an unusual verb off the verb-list, so found I could STAB DUMMY while holding the diamond pin. The game just says “OK” with no apparent effect, so unfortunately, I don’t know where this is useful yet.

One other solve came from a tag-team between my readers: Lisa H. pointed out that a toadstone is from real folklore and has “protective or curative properties”, Matt suggested because of this to try it with the manticore that inflicts poison (I noodled with it but couldn’t find any effect), and finally K thought to ask if I had eaten it. EAT TOADSTONE? Maybe:

> inv
You are holding:
A string of beads.
A dull toadstone.
A lamp (which is off).
> look
You are in a disused mineshaft. Light enters from high above but the walls are unclimbable. A passage leads south.
There is a small ingot here which, as you can see at a glance, is composed of the rare metal Erbium!
> eat toadstone
You attempt to eat the toadstone and in fact manage to lick off its outer crust, which has the taste of a boiled sweet. You discover that there is a hard centre which, when you remove it from your mouth, is really a gleaming jewel of great value!
> s
As you enter the manticore’s lair the creature’s tail whips into action, stinging you across the face.
The medicinal effects of the toadstone counteract the venom and you soon recover.

I was thinking of cooking the toadstone in something and drinking an elixir, but sure, that’ll do. Not only does this let you grab the Erbium, but the toadstone starts “gleaming” and becomes a treasure itself.

Speaking of cooking with liquids: another stopping point I had was with the various bodies of water. I found the outdoor lake has a special effect for thrown items:

You are at the edge of a large, perfectly calm lake. No breeze ruffles its untroubled waters. There is a path back to the west.
> throw key
You throw the key into the water. It sinks like a stone.

I went through a list of my items and didn’t get extra message, but the author is not a red-herring type, so I suspect a future item may be useful. (A sword that gets tossed to a Lady in the Lake, perhaps?)

For the pool of sparkling water, I realized there was a special message for typing LOOK while in the room: a strange vision.

As you gaze into the pool you fancy that you see some strange vision, but unfortunately you are unable to discern any detail.
The passage ends in a pool of sparkling water, in which wondrously flickering patterns can be seen. The only way out is to the northeast.

How to clarify? I originally though lenses, but before I could (futilely) try to make a lens in earnest, I hopped back to the verb list which has FILL. I knew I hadn’t used FILL yet. What could fill work on? How about the golden bowl I found after dealing with the Monster of Murdac?

> examine bowl
You have already had that object fully described to you.
The object’s full description currently reads:
There is an ornately fashioned bowl of solid gold here!
> fill bowl
> look
As you look into the bowl the sparkling water begins to bubble and boil away into a cloud of steam. Before this disperses you catch sight of a strange vision. A man in flowing robes is standing by the side of a large expanse of water. As the vision fades, you see him wave a ribbon.
The passage ends in a pool of sparkling water, in which wondrously flickering patterns can be seen. The only way out is to the northeast.

I’ll grant this was total luck; I was going to noodle around with the bowl of water elsewhere. (You can’t drink it; there’s “strong salty taste” and you die from stomach pains. This applies to the lake as well.)

This gave the bad news that my current save file was softlocked, as I had already done the ribbon sequence.

Ah, the ribbon sequence. Let me return back to that, and eventually I’ll return to the vision.

So we had a wizard who gave us a staff and told us to find his daughter. I found the daughter past a troll who insisted only “only one visit” and gave the staff over, and she gave me a ribbon to prove where she was. I returned the ribbon to the wizard and he gave me a scroll, and then, well, perhaps my reading skills failed me:

The wizard appears once more. “That’s her ribbon!” he says. “You have found her.” You explain the nature of his daughter’s plight, and he takes the ribbon from you, handing you a scroll, saying “May this aid you on your quest.” He then vanishes again.

Or maybe not? The way I parse this is the end of the quest-line for the daughter; that is, now that he knows, he can rescue her himself. But no, the scroll is intended to aid you in the daughter-rescue which isn’t done yet. Oops.

So the idea is to take the scroll back to the daughter, but the troll is still doing the one-visit-only deal. So you take a “large blonde wig” from elsewhere and wear it (well, just holding it automatically wears it) and that’s enough to trick the troll.

You are in the ante-room to the dungeons.
A twenty-three stone troll is standing guard over the southern exit.
> s
“Funny!” says the troll. “Someone like you was here a while ago, only the hair was different. I suppose I’d better let you pass.”
You re-enter the cell bearing the scroll, which you hand to the wizard’s daughter. She reads the document and promptly disappears in a puff of mauve smoke. Perplexed and gratified, you wander back into the ante-room, to be met by an “Are you sure we haven’t met before somewhere?” from the troll.
You are in the ante-room to the dungeons.

(Back at the wizard, he leaves you amethysts as a parting gift.)

The scroll (which previously turned you into an egg, and I thought you needed to trick someone else into reading) turned out to be helpful for the daughter; either it was specially designed by the wizard or (honestly more likely) the protagonist is just lousy at magic.

Regarding being lousy with magic, I also figured out the room with monkeys:

In this room your eyes are naturally drawn to a painting of three monkeys, one with its eyes shielded, a second with its ears covered, and the third with its mouth gagged.
There is a flight of stairs upwards and a secret exit to the south, which you had originally overlooked.
> s
In this room there is the most hideously wicked-looking picture you ever saw. It portrays a chimera – a beast so unnatural that I refuse to describe its nine misshapen heads individually.
You can avoid this loathsome sight by going north.

With the lamp stowed away, the chimera room revealed a secret word, GNOEVAL. I tried it everywhere, including, I swear, the room itself, with no luck. On a repeat-play while testing something, I had this happen by impulse:

As you pass through the secret portal you hear the word GNOEVAL resonate from something in front of you.
It is pitch dark.
> say gnoeval
O.K. “gnoeval!”
You hear a metallic CLANG! as something falls on the ground by your feet.

This drops a treasure (a silver baboon). Maybe I made a typoed by accident when testing? Maybe under odd conditions the spell won’t work?

I’ve still got the funky GAMA message and AKYGGANEGVRISHW to use, both which I know the game at least interprets as magic words, even if they’re not correct ones. (If you SAY NONSENSE, the game just repeats: O.K. “nonsense!” If is one of those words, the game adds a “Nothing useful happens.”)

Phew, that was quite a bit of solving already, but I’m not quite done yet, because I promised to return to the vision. The vision implied that waving the pink ribbon from the wizard’s daughter + being next to water = profit. Even an incomplete version of the wizard sequence loses the ribbon, so I had to go back and redo some steps and when I had the ribbon in hand, I put the wizard quest temporarily on ice. It was time to go to the ocean.

You are at the south end of the beach, which ends in a small cove.
To the west there is a small offshore island.
> wave ribbon
There is a mighty roaring sound as the waters part, revealing a path across the causeway to the island.
> w
You are on an east-west causeway, the waters towering high above you.
> w
You are at the eastern tip of a small oval-shaped island. There are paths to the west, northwest and southwest.
A causeway leads back to the mainland.
> w
You are at the centre of Cannibal Island.
There are some cannibals here, who are boiling a missionary in a cauldron.
> say hello
O.K. “hello!”
The cannibals rush for you and overpower you. It looks as though you will be taking an early bath once they’ve finished with the poor old missionary!

I’m not going to comment on the 1980s-pop-culture-jungle-island vibe since I have yet to make any progress on the puzzle. With this much forward momentum, though, maybe victory for next time?

Eh. I suspect we’ll get a nasty endgame puzzle that stops me short.

Posted May 11, 2023 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction, Video Games

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14 responses to “Murdac: Perplexed and Gratified

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  1. Have you solved the gravestone puzzle yet? Hint: it is self-contained and the information on the stone is useful.

    • based on discussion below, we’ve got the tombstone

      I’ve been making progress otherwise, probably have everything but

      a.) getting off the island

      b.) doing something with the goblin

      • and I just solved those two, heh! time to put this all together (I did mess up one of the things in the sequence) and presumably get stuck on an endgame

  2. Based on Jonathan’s comment above, and the fact I had this on my list anyway, I kept restarting a bunch of time and read the tombstone each time. It is randomly generated.

    The pattern seems to be: a name either GURON, SCAPHIO, PHANTIS, GAMA, or ARAC

    A “biography” from four choices:


    quick sample:

    You are at an old, untended grave. The tombstone is worn but you can make out some of the writing on it. There are paths to the east and north.
    > read
    The stone is worn but you can just make out the name “GURON”
    and the words “… PIONEER … SIGN LANGUAGE …”
    The stone is worn but you can just make out the name “GURON”
    and the words “… SUSPECTED … WEREWOLF …”
    The stone is worn but you can just make out the name “SCAPHIO”
    and the words “… SUSPECTED … WEREWOLF …”

    • I’d guess is that you want to “howl,” “sing,” “yell,” and something else for the werewolf, baritone, campaigner, and signer respectively, but the game prompts you for a word and I’m not sure what to use. The name doesn’t appear to work.

      • That is, I tried “howl gama” for suspected werewolf gama, and got “Nothing useful happens.” When I tried “howl” by itself I got prompted “howl what?” so the verb is recognized, and it sure seeeems like this is where it should be used.

      • you’ve actually got it! you just need to be not at the tombstone but in a room very close by when you do that

      • Some final comments from me: 1. I have managed to find the original Phoenix sources of all my adventure games. There are 5 occupations possible for the man in the tomb that you are supposed to impersonate: “….FAMOUS BARITONE …” “… NOISE ABATEMENT CAMPAIGNER …” “… SUSPECTED … WEREWOLF …” “… TOWN CRIER …” “… PIONEER … SIGN LANGUAGE …” 2. Probably the worst joke in the game is the reference to the “rod under wood”. This was a reference to Rod Underwood, the author of Quondam. He thought it was silly, and he was probably right.

        Jonathan Partington
      • oh there we go! I guess I don’t have the old-school reflex of “If you think of a magic word use it everywhere.”

  3. finis. last post today or tomorrow.

  4. Are you going straight on to the “B” side Avon?

    • No, while I had a blast with this one I need to save it up.

      My next really tough Britgame is going to be Pimania, maybe in 6 games or so? Unless one of my “short” games I have lined up turns out to be more a monster than expected.

  5. A fair decision; two Phoenix games in a row is cruelty beyond the call of duty. Although Pimania is stinking hard too.

  6. Pingback: Murdac: The Land of Heroes | Renga in Blue

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