Archive for the ‘adventure-550’ Tag

Adventure 550 (1979)   3 comments

Part of a map of Adventure from David Lebling (of Infocom) via Adventure Gamers. I find it interesting even with compass directions that the topology on a complex map can come out different with different players. For instance, his Witt’s End is near the middle of his map, while mine is on the far southeast edge.

Here’s all the versions of Adventure I’ve written about so far:

The history of the mainframe text adventure started with mods. The most famous variant of Adventure (the 350 point one) was itself born from Woods finding Crowther’s source code and augmenting it. Even with projects like Mystery Mansion where only one author developed a game, players got to try earlier versions; later versions were essentially mods of territory players were already familiar with.

Other than Mystery House Taken Over this approach to adventure creation has died out. I wouldn’t call it sad, exactly — how many versions of Adventure do we really need? — but it’s interesting to think about, especially because it’s not an area theorists have pored over. So far, I’ve seen

  • Straightforward geographic additions, where an extra exit appears somewhere and rooms get tacked on to the original structure.
  • Rearrangement, taking existing room exits and rejiggering their connections (Adventure 500’s approach of orienting everything NE/SE/SW/NW fell along these lines, and Adventure 550 does some tweaking I’ll discuss in a later post).
  • Repurposing, where an already-existing object is used to solve additional puzzles (Adventure 430 had some of this, and there was an extremely clever reuse of eggs in Adventure 440).
  • System changes, like making the dwarves in Adventure 440 tidy or adding a harsh time limit in order to get the maximum number of points possible in Adventure 430.
  • Secret additions, where something is added to an already existing location without changing the room description. The most straightforward example would be the vending machine in Adventure 430 hiding some extra rooms.
  • Reimagining, where a portion of the game is not borrowed but remade in a new way. The entirety of Adventure 500 fits this description.

In any case! Adventure 550 by David Platt adds 11 treasures and 110 rooms to the original game, and is allegedly pretty hard. I’ve already done some mapping forays, and the new material I’ve seen so far is evenly spread out.

Blue indicates new rooms, red indicates rooms which seem to not be present in this version.

Presently, I’m stopped by an ogre…

You’re standing in a very large room (which however is smaller than the Giant room) which has smooth, glassy-looking walls. A passage enters from the south and exits to the north.

There is a large, nasty-looking ogre blocking your path!

You’re standing in a very large room (which however is smaller than the Giant room) which has smooth, glassy-looking walls. A passage enters from the south and exits to the north.

There is a large, nasty-looking ogre blocking your path!
With your bare hands??
You attack the ogre — a brave but foolish action. He quickly grabs you and with a heave of his mighty arms rips your body limb from limb.


You are in an arched coral passage which enters from the west, splits, and continues on to the east over a smooth and damp-looking patch of sand. The fork in the passage once led to the south, but it is now completely blocked by debris.

Hmmmm.. This sand is rather soft, and you’re sinking in a little… In fact you’re sinking in a lot! Oh, no — it’s QUICKSAND!! HELP!! HELP!! HELP!!!

Oh dear, you seem to have gotten yourself killed. I might be able to help you out, but I've never really done this before. Do you want me to try to reincarnate you?

and a mysterious safe.

You are in a room with a high, vaulted ceiling. A tunnel leads upwards and to the north.

A massive walk-in safe takes up one entire wall. It is tightly closed, and has no handle, lock, nor keyhole.

I’m having fun so far. Curiously, I’m getting a parallel universe feeling. For example, in many versions of Adventure (including this one), there’s additions made to the reservoir, so my mental map contains all the variations simultaneously. It’s like I’m living in a Schrödinger box.

Posted July 24, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Adventure 550: Messages   4 comments

From Michael Whelan’s cover for the Stephen R. Donaldson book The Runes of the Earth. It will become relevant shortly.

So I managed to get past the ogre from last time.


The sword halts in mid-air, twirls like a dervish, and chants several bars of “Dies Irae” in a rough tenor voice. It then begins to spin like a rip-saw blade and flies directly at the ogre, who attempts to catch it without success; it strikes him full on the chest. There is a brilliant flash of light, a deafening roar and a cloud of oily grey smoke; when the smoke clears (and your eyes begin working properly again) you see that the ogre has vanished. The sword is lying on the ground, sparking and flaming. Before your eyes it softens and melts, writhes as if in pain, and shrinks rapidly until all that is left is a small silvery ring which cools rapidly.

The ring left behind is magic, and it helps with the dwarves:

There is a threatening little dwarf in the room with you!

You attack a little dwarf, but he dodges out of the way.
One nasty sharp knife is thrown at you!
A glowing disk of black fire jumps out of your magic ring and swallows the hurtling knife before it can harm you!

Past the ogre was a small set of rooms, including one leading to an “ice maze”.

David Platt’s own drawing of the ice cave map, via Rick Adams.

After great labor, I reached the “exit” but nothing happened. A magic word was required, and it’s encoded in the maze itself. (I won’t divulge more here, but feel free to speculate in the comments.)

Speaking of secret messages, two of the “dead ends” rooms from the original Adventure still are dead ends, but have new messages attached.

Dead end passage. Scratched on a rock is the message, “Stand where the statue gazes, and make use of the proper tool.”

I assume the above suggests a solution to a puzzle.

The canyon runs into a mass of boulders — dead end. Scratched on one of the boulders are the words, “Jerry Cornelius was here.”

Trivia: Jerry Cornelius was the main character of a series of books by Michael Moorcock. He has been described as an “adventurer” and an “assassin”, but … well, my best segue would be Wikipedia’s description of the first two books in the Cornelius Quartet:

The Final Programme
Jerry battles his brother Frank who has kidnapped his beloved sister Catherine. Frank dies, but Catherine is also killed. Jerry is sucked into the plans of Miss Brunner to create the perfect being by merging the bodies of Jerry and herself together. When this is done, a radiantly charismatic hermaphroditic being emerges from the machinery. All who see the new creature fall quaking to their knees. The creature itself announces that this is “a very tasty world”.
A Cure for Cancer
Jerry is solo again, existing as negative character with black skin and white hair. He moves through a landscape of destroyed English cities and occupying American armies, a metaphor for contemporary Vietnam. He runs a clandestine “transmogrification” service for people who want to cast off their old selves, flesh and all. We meet the gluttonous Bishop Beesley, and his daughter Mitzi. Eventually Jerry drives the Americans to madness, causing them to burn everything, including themselves.

So that’s a thing. While I’m fairly certain this is just an easter egg, it made me suspicious of the possibility of other pop culture references. Behold:

You are in a small, low-ceilinged room with the words “Witt Company Tool Room — Melenkurion division” carved into one of the walls. A wide corridor runs south from here.

Some Google-fu led me to discover “Melenkurion” is one of the Seven Words of Power in the still-ongoing fantasy universe of Stephen R. Donaldson (hence, the image on the top of the post). Since it’s a “word of power”, I tried it out:


Nothing happens.

Just to be clear, normally the game says “Huh??” if it doesn’t understand a word. I don’t know if that means the word is useful, but the game is pretty low on the vocabulary so I expect it works somewhere.

Posted July 25, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Adventure 550: The (Dis)pleasures of Magic   1 comment

Partial map in progress.

So the most significant thing I’ve done since last time is make my way across the “breath-taking view”. In the original it was just a fancy description, but in Adventure 550 it holds a secret:

You are on the edge of a breath-taking view. Far below you is an active volcano, from which great gouts of molten lava come surging out, cascading back down into the depths. The glowing rock fills the farthest reaches of the cavern with a blood-red glare, giving everything an eerie, macabre appearance. The air is filled with flickering sparks of ash and a heavy smell of brimstone. The walls are hot to the touch, and the thundering of the volcano drowns out all other sounds. Embedded in the jagged roof far overhead are myriad twisted formations composed of pure white alabaster, which scatter the murky light into sinister apparitions upon the walls. To one side is a deep gorge, filled with a bizarre chaos of tortured rock which seems to have been crafted by the devil himself. An immense river of fire crashes out from the depths of the volcano, burns its way through the gorge, and plummets into a bottomless pit far off to your left. Across the gorge, the entrance to a valley is dimly visible. To the right, an immense geyser of blistering steam erupts continuously from a barren island in the center of a sulfurous lake, which bubbles ominously. The far right wall is aflame with an incandescence of its own, which lends an additional infernal splendor to the already hellish scene. A dark, foreboding passage exits to the south.
> wave rod

The earth begins to shudder violently, and smoke flows up from the gorge beneath your feet. With a violent >GLOP!<, the volcano belches out an immense blast of molten lava which flies into the air above the gorge and suddenly solidifies into a fragile-looking arch of wheat-colored stone that bridges the gorge.

I confess I had to spoil this part. In particular, the wall-of-text literally hid an important clue I missed (Across the gorge, the entrance to a valley is dimly visible.)

The rod in the original you could wave to form a bridge, but it was to a location that was accessible a different way. Most walkthroughs just skip it. This is the first case I’ve seen where Adventure 550 does repurposing, resusing an old item for a new purpose. There’s no way to know for certain if the rod will work without experimentation, but at least in this case it makes sense — the rod makes bridges, you’re in an area where a bridge would come in handy, the rod works to solve the puzzle.

Magic in adventure games can be a danger zone for puzzle design. It’s too easy to force the player to stand in random spot X and wave necklace Y to solve a puzzle; without strong hints it’s a matter of trying everything everywhere.

This game does give hints, even if they’re a bit jarring. Do you remember “Stand where the statue gazes, and make use of the proper tool” from last time? Also, the Donaldson reference with “Witt Company Tool Room — Melenkurion division”?

You are standing at the north end of the Valley of the Stone Faces. Above you, an incredible bas-relief statue of an immense minotaur has been carved out of the rock. At least sixty feet high, it sits gazing down at you with a faint but definite expression of amusement. Between its feet and the floor is a rock wall about ten feet high which extends across the entire north end of the valley.


Rock silently crumbles off of the wall in front of you, revealing dark passages leading northwest, north, and northeast.

Oof. This was sort of pleasing and displeasing at the same time. I honestly wouldn’t have zeroed in on “Melenkurion” as a magic word without the pop culture reference, but in retrospect the “tool” can’t refer to anything else.

On the top of the map you might notice some “catacombs”. That’s another maze with one of those all-or-nothing structures I wrote about in Adventure 500, where going the wrong direction takes you backwards, and there is only one right direction. Mapping it was tedious, and hidden inside I found this:

You are at the eastern end of the Audience Hall. There is a large dais rising out of the floor here; resting upon the dais is a strange-looking throne made out of interlocking bars and rods of metal.

Resting on the throne (“sitting” isn’t really the right word) is an incredible skeleton. It is fairly humanoid from the waist up (except for its incredible size and four extra arms); below that, it resembles the body of a giant python, and is wrapped in and around the bars and rods of the throne. Clutched in one bony hand is a long sceptre, ornately encrusted with sapphires!!


You pluck the sceptre from the skeleton’s bony hand. As you do, the skeleton raises its head and whispers “Remember — BLERBI!” in a foreboding tone; it then sags to the ground and crumbles into dust which drifts away into the still air of the cave.

(The magic word is not fixed — I went through the scene again later and got a different one.)

I might have thought the skeleton would put up more of a fight, and indeed it does if you try to take the sceptre back across the bridge:

As you reach the center of the bridge, a ghostly figure appears in front of you. He (?) stands at least eight feet tall, and has the lower body of an enormous snake, six arms, and an angry expression on his face. “You’ll not have my sceptre that easily!” he cries, and makes a complex magical gesture with his lower right arm. There is a brilliant flash of light and a vicious >crack<, and the bridge cracks and plummets into the gorge.

This was admittedly an excellent death. I have trouble describing why it made me laugh with delight rather than groan in pain, but it may have had to do with me realizing the likely solution.

You see, the magic word works to open a giant walk-in safe. (There is no indication why — this was a moment of random-necklace-waving, so to speak.)



The (somewhat rusty) safe is now open.

Here’s the thing: there’s also an exact identical safe past the bridge, below the Hall of the Mountain King. I could see exactly where this puzzle was going, so the dramatic scene of the skeleton was simultaneously accompanied by the gears clicking in my head.

Posted July 27, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Adventure 550: Finished!   8 comments

If you’re at all curious about any of the Adventure variants from the 1970s, play this one. Other than David Long’s (which I haven’t played yet) I can definitively call it the fairest of the lot; for the most part I reasoned through the puzzles, tried actions that seemed logical, and found success. Even with two new mazes (and one not-really-a-maze) I got the buzz of feeling like I was Adventuring and not just jumping through abstract hoops.

However, if you do play, you should spoil the ending puzzle. It is absolute rubbish in a way I’ve never seen before in an adventure game and I am unlikely to see again. This is not an exaggeration.

(Note that below I will be spoiling more than just the ending.)

Via Everygamegoing. Even though the year is wrong, I like the comment about how the aim of an adventure is to “discover the rules.”

A lot of what I had left to wrangle was logistical. Let me detail an example, because this sort of thing happens rarely in modern games.

Just like 350 point Adventure, there is a limit to how long the lamp lasts; there’s also an inventory limit of 7 items. Each time I reached the well house and could turn the lamp off, it felt I had reached “home base” and could plan my next foray. As this game is larger than 350 point Adventure, I had to make lists, like this one which involved going up a large beanstalk on multiple occasions:

1st foray

leave axe at reservoir
bring keys, food, rod for 3rd foray, but drop off at nest

2nd foray


3rd foray


The lists included items I knew I would need or predicted I would need for a particular section of the map. This particular plan turned out not be a perfect setup, because bringing the “eggs” on the 3rd expedition turned out unfortunate:

As you reach the middle of the bridge, the troll appears from out of the tunnel behind you, wearing a large backpack. “So, Mister Magician,” he shouts, “you like to use magic to steal back my hardearned toll? Let’s see how you like a little of MY magic!!” With that, he aims a tube running from the backpack directly at the bear and pulls a trigger. A spout of magical fire roars out and singes the bear’s fur; the bear bellows in pain and dashes onto the bridge to escape. The bridge shudders, groans, and collapses under the weight, and you and the bear plunge down into the chasm.

This also influences puzzle-solving. I ran across one puzzle where I quickly suspected I needed a certain item but didn’t get an opportunity to test my theory until several hours later. Also, a puzzle that was I had to solve early in the sequence involved eating a mushroom to get strength, allowing me to pull a sword out of a stone. The strength is temporary, but it lasted long enough it potentially was needed for a second puzzle. So in my puzzle solving I had to account for not only what items I currently had and which ones were in storage, but which ones were from the past.

Before I start ranting about the end game, let me set up a prior puzzle:

You are in a small room whose walls are covered with an elaborate pattern of arabesque figures and designs.

There is a small, tightly-sealed earthenware flask on the ground here. It has the words, “London Dry” written on the side.

I think the resemblance with a similar object in Acheton is just a coincidence, especially because the container doesn’t have gin:

The flask’s wax seal crumbles at your touch. A large cloud of black smoke pours out, solidifying into the form of a twelve-foot Djinn. “AT LAST!” he says in an earth-shaking voice, “I KNEW THAT SOMEDAY SOMEONE WOULD RELEASE ME! I WOULD REWARD YOU FOR THIS, MORTAL, BUT IT HAS BEEN THREE THOUSAND YEARS SINCE I HAD A SOLID MEAL, AND I’M NOT GOING TO STAND HERE CHATTERING WHEN I COULD BE OUT EATING A SIX-INCH SIRLOIN STEAK. FAREWELL.” With that, he somewhat rudely explodes back into smoke and drifts quickly out of sight.

So rude. In a different section, you find a room with a pentagram, which allows for a much more helpful answer:


You have set the flask down in the center of the pentagram.

The wax seal breaks away easily. A cloud of dark smoke pours up from the mouth of the flask and condenses into the form of a twelve-foot Djinn standing in the pentagram. He pushes experimentally at the magical wall of the pentagram (which holds), and nods politely to you. “MY THANKS, OH MORTAL,” he says in an incredibly deep bass voice. “IT HAS BEEN THREE THOUSAND YEARS SINCE SOLOMON SEALED ME INTO THAT BOTTLE, AND I AM GRATEFUL THAT YOU HAVE RELEASED ME. IF YOU WILL OPEN THIS PENTAGRAM AND LET ME GO FREE, I WILL GIVE YOU SOME ADVICE THAT YOU MAY ONE DAY WISH TO POSSESS.”


That second portion is a hint for the endgame. It’s not even a bad hint for what to do; the absurd bit we’ll get to in a moment.

After getting all the necessary treasures, the endgame starts like every other variant: an announcement the cave is going to close, and then:

The sepulchral voice intones, “The cave is now closed.” As the echoes fade, there is a blinding flash of light (and a small puff of orange smoke). . . . As your eyes refocus, you look around and find…

But then things vary:

You are in a small cylindrical room with very smooth walls and a flat floor and ceiling. There are no exits visible anywhere.

So, when given this much minimalism, the general approach is to try everything, including magic words:

> xyzzy

Nothing happens.
> plugh

Nothing happens.

The magic words are the key, and the Djinn’s hint really is enough to suss out the necessary trick. You need to recite all the magic words in the game, in backwards alphabetical order.

Still not at the howler yet: in normal circumstances it’d be possible to run across the solution organically; when stating the correct word last in alphabetical order, the game says “Ok.” rather than “Nothing happens.”

However, you need to recite all the magic words in the game, and not just all the magic words that have appeared in the game. From my last post, I mentioned getting a magic word with a sceptre, and as an aside I mentioned the word was not fixed. The word is in fact drawn from a set of five possible words, and you only get one, but you need all five in the endgame.

So you need to save and restore the sceptre scene at least five times (probably more due to random chance) to try to extract every possible magic word, because all of them will appear in the endgame. (I gather from Arthur O’Dwyer’s notes — the person who ported the game version I played — that the original version set the word at the start of the game so you would need to play the game through to that point at least five times.)

To add even more pain, the first word needed — ZORTON — is one off the random five list. So, unless you got that word in your play-through, you aren’t going to see the “Ok.” message at all. At least if XYZZY (the next reverse alphabetically) had started the set there would be a hint of the correct action path.

This is so staggering I deep-searched the source code just to make sure I wasn’t missing something. The best I can figure is: at the time mainframe games tended to be group activities. You can imagine an entire math department tackling the game at off hours. The group has all reached the endgame, and word of mouth has spread that the number theorist in room 602 got a different message than everyone. People confer notes and realize the effect of ZORTON. Compiling together the efforts of 10 people, they manage to realize a full magic word list and finally lead the way to triumph.

I admit a bit of fascination with puzzle games designed to be solved with groups, either intentionally (as in the case of The Black Watchmen) or unintentionally (as happened with the adventure Blue Ice, which was intended to be part of a contest that never happened and required a whole forum to solve it). With Adventure 550, though, it’s just a broken puzzle. This is a pity, because after saying the last magic word there’s a section with an existential vibe I found satisfying. You are sent back to the start of the game, but the wellhouse is now empty. The world feels lonely. There’s only one last task:

At your feet all the water of the stream splashes into a 2-foot slit in the rock. Downstream the streambed is bare rock.

You plunge into the stream and are carried down into total blackness.

You find yourself sitting on the edge of a pool of water in a vast chamber lit by dozens of flaring torches.

The floor is covered with thick layers of precious Persian rugs!

Rare coins, bars of silver, and lumps of gold and platinum are strewn carelessly about!

There are diamonds, rubies, sapphires, emeralds, opals, pearls, and fabulous sculptures and ornaments carved out of jade and imperishable crystal resting on display shelves, along with rare Ming vases and ancient Indian turquoise beads!

A flotilla of ruby-encrusted toy boats is floating in the pool of water beside you!

A network of golden chains supports a fantastic Iridium crown!

There is a display case on the wall filled with a fantastic selection of magical swords, which are singing “Hail to the Chief” in perfect pitch and rhythm!

There are a dozen friendly little dwarves in the room, displaying their talents by deftly juggling hundreds of golden eggs!

A large troll, a gigantic ogre, and a bearded pirate are tossing knives, axes, and clubs back and forth in a friendly demonstration of martial skill!

A horde of cheerful little gooseberry goblins are performing talented acrobatics to an appreciative audience composed of a dragon, a large green snake, a cute little bird (which is sitting, unmolested, on the snake’s head), a peaceful basilisk, and a large Arabian Djinn.

Everyone turns and sees you, and lets out a heart-warming cheer of welcome!

You have scored a total of 550 points, out of a possible maximum of 550 points. During this game of Adventure, you have taken a total of 476 turns.

All of Adventuredom gives tribute to you, Adventurer Grandmaster!

Posted July 31, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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