Archive for the ‘quarterstaff’ Tag

Quarterstaff: The Infamous Puzzle   1 comment

In a curious way, even though I just started, I’ve been playing Quarterstaff for four years.

It’s long been one of the two Infocom games I’ve never tried (Shogun is the other one) and at one point when I was organizing my files I wanted to make a directory so I could play Quarterstaff when the time was right. I set up a Macintosh emulator (a bit of a ritual in itself) and gathered the documentation files I knew I would need. According to my file dates, this happened in 2014.

I had heard that in particular there was a puzzle reliant on the documentation that was quite nasty to solve.

The most significant “real” puzzle is that of deciphering a set of magic words using a parchment and wooden coin included in the game package. (Apparently quite a few players were stumped by this — Infocom actually gave away the entire solution in the very last issue of “The Status Line,” which is included in manual download below).
Home of the Underdogs

The documentation included the “parchment” on the top of this post, as well as a wooden coin.

Knowing about the puzzle’s reputation, intermittently I would take a glance at the image files in my directory, idly trying to solve the puzzle. Was there an acrostic or something of that sort in the poem? What did the difference between the coin and the parchment pictures mean? Do the animals to the side have a meaning?

Fast-forwarding to now:

This is the way to the second level, but this is also the location of the identify wand, which seems to be critical to the game, because examining it says “The glowing identify wand is in the gouged hole. A wand that looks to be used for copy protection. You had better read the documentation to figure out how to use it.”

The manual states the format for wand use is [MAGIC WORD] [TARGET OF MAGIC]. The mystery seemed to be what magic words could be used, and thus the puzzle boiled down to finding “magic verbs” the game would recognize. The four mini-poems at the bottom seemed to be applicable.

To glean the secret of a Wand,
Spy the rising sun, and pace
Southward six.

Here I was stumped, likely as stumped as the poor Status Line readers, until I had a lateral insight. Let’s clip an image from the game as a bit of spoiler space …

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(don’t go on unless you want the puzzle completely spoiled)
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… before mentioning I remembered that the coin was a physical object, and while it was not certain from the pictures, it appeared to fit inside the compass circle on top of the parchment itself.

Additionally, I noticed there was an arrow on the coin; I originally assumed it pointed to north, but then realized because of it being physical the coin itself could be rotated to match whatever the poem wanted. That is, if we “spy the rising sun” (start pointing east) the arrow on the coin can can be rotated to face east. Then from the eastmost point we can read off six letters rotating clockwise (“pacing southward”).

This gets ODEEPS which is indeed recognized by the game!

>Odeeps identify wand.
The identify wand glows faintly and suddenly Titus clearly understands exactly what it can be used for: Using this wand will allow the wielder to identify scrolls, wands, potions, and keys. They key words necessary for using the wand can be deciphered from the scroll and coin included in the game packaging.

I know I promised I would get to combat this time, but I’m going to wait a little longer while I explore Level 2; the game makes some very extended claims about artificial intelligence and I’m trying to verify if any of the claims hold out.

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Posted April 20, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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Quarterstaff: Great in Concept, Painful in Execution   Leave a comment

The back of the Infocom box, via an Etsy auction.

It’s been a while! (You might want to reread my first post about Quarterstaff and then come back here. TLDR version: Quarterstaff is a Macintosh-only hybrid text adventure RPG with multiple characters.) While I’ve been busy with other projects, to be fair Quarterstaff itself is trying really hard to be unplayable.

1. The multiple characters sound good in principle but are painful in practice. Members of a group can act separately, so you get a series of prompts like:

L Titus? DRINK POTION
F Bruno? Z
F Eolene? EXAMINE BELT

so while one character is trying to do something finicky like adjust their inventory, you have to control the other characters at the same time. (“L” stands for leader and “F” stands for follower. You can change who is the leader and also separate groups.)

This gets really bad with something like DROP ALL or TAKE ALL because each item is considered a separate action, so if someone is dropping three items, your other party members are prompted multiple times for actions in between each item getting dropped. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds:

Fortunately (although I only found this out about 2 hours in) it’s possible to turn off this feature by deselecting a character name from one of the menus (it just has the “clover” symbol, no name). Multiple character control is still needed for things like combat, though.

2. There are lots of circumstances (at least early on) where a character is too heavily weighted down to enter a particular area. This not only requires the aforementioned inventory shuffle, but if somone who gets stuck is a follower, whoops! — your regular party goes ahead and your follower stays behind in the dark.

3. The interface uses multiple windows for player control and messages, map, and graphics. This doesn’t sound bad at first, but if a character gets separated from their group it pops up a new window, and the graphics are wildly inconsistent in size so that particular window grows or shrinks on every turn.

Note I’ve left the top left free because the picture sometimes takes up the entire area I have allocated. If I accidentally click in that blank space with no picture I get sent to the desktop.

4. The parser is on shaky ground at times.

Once I tried to >OPEN CLOSET and the game just picked it up instead.

5. Party death results in this ignominious screen (and the famous “Macintosh beep”) and then a summary exit to desktop.

6. While this is not the game’s fault, I’ve had my emulator crash on me multiple times. I’m going to switch software and see if that helps. Fingers crossed!

I’ll try to get into combat next time; I haven’t seen enough of it to really write about it properly.

Posted April 19, 2018 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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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.

Posted November 28, 2017 by Jason Dyer in Interactive Fiction

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