(Heavier spoilers than usual this post.)
First, a mea culpa: you do get a faint blue glow when the thief is nearby, but only in the original Muddle version and not in the ZDungeon port. It’s actually even more effective than the sword suddenly turning on: it happens more frequently, and it makes for more moments of teeth-gnashing.
Paul O’Brian writes that “Dungeon wants nothing more than to see you fail” and I’m feeling the burn. I’ve developed a system over the years to give myself the best chance of solving adventure games; unfortunately my rate of hintless wins has not improved much. The only games I’d call “substantial” I beat with no hints at all were Countdown to Doom (1982) and Anchorhead (1998). Other than the “Beginner” level Wishbringer (1985) I haven’t beaten any Infocom game without hints.
Still I find my system helpful, so I’m plowing ahead. First I list all my open puzzles:
Bank of Zork
Entrance to Hades
Circular Room mysterious message:o b o A G I E L m p a
Getting out of Aragain Falls with treasure intact
Getting coffin out of Egyptian Room area
Passage full of ice
Handling light source at narrow passage near coal mine
Then I list all my objects I have access to:
coil of rope
old leather bag, bulging with coins
set of skeleton keys
deceased adventurer’s useless lantern
small brass bell
bucket (can’t carry)
coil of thin shiny wire
toothpaste tube (Frobozz magic gunk)
folded plastic / pump -> boat
trunk with jewels
Then I sit and compare the two lists and a map until something pops in my head. For instance, on one previous list-comparison check I realized I’d used the boat on only one body of water but the map had more I could try. My current list of things to try:
try shovel everywhere
burning timber didn’t work; try burning other things that can remain lit while on the floor to get an extra light source near the narrow passage
try alternate exit from area after the narrow passage instead
mess around with bell / candles / books at Hades some more (bell does have some effect)
try ‘odysseus’ or ‘hello, sailor’ more places
This works best if there’s a puzzle where all the systems are clear and it is just a matter of fitting the pieces together (like the troll bridge puzzle from Adventure) and worst when there’s some sort of in-game experimentation required (like not realizing an item is magic — that trident looks suspicious — and there’s no clue except for in-game manipulation).
Sometimes I’ll miss the existence of items; for instance the fact the “grail room” had an actual Grail object that could be picked up strangely eluded me for some time.
Absolute worst is when I miss a map exit exists. This can happen to me even on good, sensibly mappable games (I missed going up from the kitchen in Savoir Faire for something like an hour). One of my standing stuck procedures is to double check every room on the map and try every single direction — even if the room description insists there’s only one way out — just in case.
Anyone have their own method?