Quarterstaff (1987)   Leave a comment

I was going to get back to my regular sequence from 1980, when I found out The CRPG Addict was about to start Quarterstaff. Quarterstaff was originally written by Scott Schmitz and Ken Updike for Macintosh and published in 1987, but picked up by Infocom in 1988 and republished (with new color graphics and extra writing by Amy Briggs of Plundered Hearts fame). It remains one of the few Infocom games I’ve never beaten, so the opportunity seemed too good to miss.

I tried this sort of simultaneous blogging before once when The CRPG Addict embarked on Fallthru, but that game turned out to be far more RPG than adventure, and I only squeezed out two entries before my body gave out. (“The numbers represent actual numbers of steps, so reaching Biclif to the north by walking requires typing N for north 250 times.”) I can safely toss that game on the “not an adventure” pile and move on.

Quarterstaff, on the other hand, looks to be more adventure than RPG. The plot premise at least is typical RPG; find evil, go slay it. (Or make friends with it, or join forces and become evil yourself, or teach it scrapbooking and then slay it because it used too many sparkles, or …?)

However, during the last six months, the usually-stable Tree Druids have begun to act unnaturally. Their attendance at the Druid Council has become oddly erratic, and the sect’s communication with other Druidic colonies has mysteriously dwindled to nothing . . . Three months ago, all traces of the sect vanished entirely. Three scouts – famed warriors named Bruno, Jaroo, and Eolene – were sent by nearby colonies to find out what had happened. Several weeks have passed without word from them, however, and once again the people of Rhea have grown restless for news of the sect. Casting about for another warrior to send, the Druid Council has called on you to journey forth and discover what unspeakable terror has destroyed the once-prosperous people.

Despite the plot, Quarterstaff manages to squeeze off its own supply of uniqueness:

1.) There are multiple game windows that can be rearranged however you like. I remember seeing this in the Magnetic Scrolls Collection but even now this isn’t that common a thing in text adventures.

2.) You start out, alone, as this guy:

TITUS may look muscle-bound, but he’s got brains to match his enormous muscles. Titus used to be a blacksmith, but then again, he used to be a lot of things. The Druid Council chose Titus for this mission because he was the toughest looking and talking person around and also because he was just drunk enough to accept the mission.

However, you can control multiple characters. From the manual: “Some creatures may find it beneficial to join forces with you, and so, while you begin the game alone, you may quickly become the leader of a sizable party. Of course, as your party grows, you gain control over the actions of its individual members; you may wish to split up into several groups, or even to elect a new leader.”

The very first party member you get (Bruno) is just a few steps away, and all you need to do is >GREET BRUNO to get him to join the group. This game isn’t much for conversation menus.

Once you have more than one party member, if your lead character does an action other than movement, you set commands for all the characters in your group simultaneously. (That is, Titus can examine an item at the same time Bruno is busy unlocking a door.)

3.) The game keeps track of stats, which qualifies it for RPG-status:

4.) There’s a macro system, a built in verb list, and the ability to pick any item in the room or in one of your character’s inventory straight off the menu. The interface would be considered awesomely advanced by the text adventure community if it was in a current game.

There’s also some physical materials that came with the game that match in-universe items (as was standard with Infocom). I’ll show them off next time. In the meantime, I’ll wander and see what trouble I can get into.

The Tree Druids, world-renowned for their acumen in the healing arts, disappeared without a trace, leaving this empty complex. Where could the two score inhabitants have gone, so suddenly? This thought haunts you as you travel down the damp, cool passage.

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Posted November 28, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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