Source:The Palace of Mirrors notes

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This page is a verbatim reproduction of original source material and should not be edited except for maintenance.
Description

Author's notes for the lost Eamon adventure The Palace of Mirrors. The contest Stadfeld refers to is the "State Your Case" contest published in the August 2005 issue of Games magazine.

Source

mensanator.com/mensanator/pig_ignorance.htm (archived)

Date

December 2005

Author

Paul Stadfeld

License

The use of this item is permitted and constitutes fair use on the grounds that it's free or in the public domain.

The Contest

Simple enough idea. From the official list of two-letter postal abbreviations of the United States and Canada...

    AA AB AE AK AL AP AR AS AZ BC CA CO CT DC DE
    FL FM GA GU HI IA ID IL IN KS KY LA MA MB MD
    ME MH MI MN MO MP MS MT NB NC ND NE NH NJ NL
    NM NS NT NU NV NY OH OK ON OR PA PE PR PW QC
    RI SC SD SK TN TX UT VA VI VT WA WI WV WY YT

...one is to write a story of no more than 100 words that contains at least 6 words formed entirely from the two-letter abbreviations.

"Entries will be judged on the correctness of state abbreviations, appropriateness of the words and the sense in which they are used, and your story's originality and wit."

Originality and wit. Not just a dumbass with a computer who can crank out every possible word in the English language composed of those two-letter pairs. As the list makers found out the hard way, knowing the words isn't enough, you've got to apply them. I figured I couldn't possibly lose, because I'm a smartass with a computer But too smart apparently. Maybe I should have submitted my entries with comments so that the short bus crowd could follow along. Too late for the contest, but as long as I'm listing them here, might as well.

For the record, I was the author of Dungeon #222 The Palace of Mirrors written for The Wonderful World of Eamon in the early 80's. Although donated to the local Apple II user group, it never made it into the Eamon archives that exist today and is probably lost. Luckily, my Turbo Pascal port source code is still extant, so there is a remote possibility that it may be resurrected.

Contest entries (state words underlined) Comments
THE LAND CONSISTS OF AN ARID PLAIN OF

LAVA THE COLOR OF COAL THAT EXTENDS IN
ALL DIRECTIONS.

YOU GAPE IN AWE AT A MONUMENTAL PALACE
MADE ENTIRELY OF MIRRORS, SAVE FOR A
SMALL METAL DOOR ON THE EAST SIDE.

MOVE EAST.

YOU ARE INSIDE A SMALL ROOM WITH STAIRS
LEADING UP AND DOWN. METAL DOORS ARE TO
THE EAST AND WEST.

MOVE WEST.

YOU ARE IN A LARGE ROOM WITH A FLOOR OF
POLISHED STONE. A LARGE COUNTER OF
INLAID WODDEN PANELS IS NEAR THE NORTH
END OF THE ROOM.

A METAL DOOR IS TO THE EAST.

(98 words)

Ok, the Adventure begins! The barbarian finds himself in a world he doesn't understand. Everything is described based on his primitive knowledge. Thus, asphalt is BLACK LAVA. Since the dungeons he is used to visiting are cold, grey edifices of stone, the sight of a 20th century glass office building leaves him awestruck.

Not only is this idea maintained throughout all the stories, but the chosen statewords often enhance this theme.

"Appropriateness of the words and the sense in which they are used" indeed.

YOU ARE STANDING NEAR THE INLAID

WOODEN COUNTER. A MIDDLE AGED WOMAN
IS BEHIND THE COUNTER OPERATING A COIN
TALLYING MACHINE.

IT WOULD APPEAR THAT THERE IS MORE
MONEY IN THAT CLOTH SACK THAN YOU’VE
BEEN ABLE TO SCRIMP TOGETHER IN THE
DECADE YOU’VE BEEN ADVENTURING!

SMILE.

TELLER GROWLS AT YOU.

TELLER ATTACKS CONAN. A HIT.
CONAN IS IN PAIN.

ATTACK TELLER. A HIT.
TELLER IS DEAD.

YOU SEE A CLOTH SACK CONTAINING MANY
COPPER COINS FRESH FROM THE MINT.

GET ALL.

DEAD TELLER IS TOO HEAVY.
PENNIES TAKEN.

(89 words)

Typical adventure game stuff. You meet characters. If they are unfriendly, you fight them. If they are friendly, they'll follow you around. Seems obvious.

Note the wit here. The barbarian thinks he's seeing a fabulous treasure. But it's just a nearly worthless sack of pennies. As a stranger in a strange land, he cannot distinguish treasure from trash.

As game players all know, the weight of trash counts against how many artifacts the player can carry. First objective is to survive, second objective is to get rich.

But the dungeon designer is not a dick. He tries to be witty by giving the artifacts names that the player will understand even if his character doesn't.

Thus, when he sees PENNIES TAKEN, that's a clue that this artifact is heavy and not very valuable.

THE ROOM IS FILLED WITH MACHINES WITH

BLINKING LIGHTS. THE AIR IS COLD, DRY
AND CLEAN, FREE OF THAT TOBACCO MIASMA
THAT PERVADES THE REST OF THE PALACE.

ON A DESK YOU SEE THE OBJECT OF YOUR
QUEST: THE PASCAL SOURCE CODE. THIS
ORDEAL MAY PAY OFF YET.

ONE MACHINE, LABELED "MODEMS", IS DARK
AND PULLED AWAY FROM THE WALL TRAILING
A COIL OF WIRE. FROM BEHIND IT STEPS
A BEARDED MAN CARRYING A WEAPON THAT
MAKES LEAD RUN LIKE WATER!

ATTACK ENGINEER. A HIT.
ENGINEER IS DEAD.

GET ALL.

SOLDERING IRON TAKEN.
PRINTOUT TAKEN.
DEAD ENGINEER IS TOO HEAVY.

(100 words)

Doesn't anyone remember the days before anti-smoking laws when the only place you could escape from the smokers was the computer room? Does the use of MIASMA look forced here or is it just about the most appropriate usage of a stateword you can find?

And PASCAL SOURCE CODE. Originally it was floppy disks. Got in a couple statewords without deviating from the original story.

And no, not violating the stranger in a strange land theme. The player is specifically told at the start of the adventure what it is he needs to bring back.

I always had a fondness for this room, having once been a bearded guy wielding a weapon that makes lead run like water.

ALARMS BLARING, YOU NEED TO DECODE THE

DOOR LOCK BEFORE THE PALACE DEMONS
ARRIVE!

AN APPEAL TO THE GODS COULDN’T HURT.

SAY "POWER".

A BOLT OF LIGHTNING LEAPS FROM A PLATE
NEAR THE FLOOR STRIKING YOU! YOU FEEL
NUMB ALL OVER.

YOU ANGRILY MAKE A MENTAL MEMO TO
COMPLAIN TO THE WIZARD WHO SOLD YOU
THAT SPELL (IF YOU MAKE IT BACK TO THE
MAIN HALL).

THE DOOR CRACK SUDDENLY WIDENS REVEALING
A WINDOWLESS ROOM. ONCE INSIDE, THE DOOR
CLOSES AND YOU FEEL VIBRATION, AS IF IN
MOTION. THE DOOR OPENS ONTO WHAT WOULD
APPEAR TO BE A DIFFERENT PASSAGEWAY.

(100 words)

It was intended that the DOOR LOCK is obviously simply the up/down buttons for the elevator.

Normally, the POWER spell would be understood by the player. Wouldn't expect everyone to know that, so it's explained (giving me the opportunity to use some more statewords).

THE ROOM IS VACANT. YOU SEE A LARGE

WOODEN TABLE NEARLY AS LONG AS THE
ROOM ITSELF. ON THE TABLE HAVE BEEN
LAID MANY EXQUISITE CRYSTAL BOWLS
AND A COUPLE OF FLASKS OF CLEAR LIQUID.

GET ALL.

TABLE IS TOO HEAVY.
ASHTRAYS TAKEN.
PITCHERS TAKEN.

DRINK PITCHERS.
DRAT, JUST WATER, NOT WINE.

MOVE NORTH.

YOU ARE IN THE EAST TO WEST PASSAGEWAY.

MOVE NORTH.

YOU ARE IN A SMALL ROOM CONTAINING A
LARGE DESK. A FLORAL CANVAS (PROBABLY
VALUABLE) IS PROMINENTLY DISPLAYED ON
THE WALL.

THERE IS A WIDE SET OF DOUBLE DOORS TO
THE EAST.

(96 words)

EXQUISITE CRYSTAL BOWLS = ASHTRAYS

Ok, not the funniest one. Unfortunately, the funniest one didn't get used as I didn't include the room containing a box of many scrolls (TOILET PAPER).

And the FLORAL CANVAS wasn't just thrown in to pad out the statewords. The dungeon designer is giving a strong hint to the player that he should take this large, heavy object. Doesn't matter whether it's too heavy to carry, taking it off the wall reveals the wall safe which the player must open to successfully complete his quest.

But you could have guessed that, right?

BEHIND THE DESK SITS A SKINNY, RAVEN

HAIRED BEAUTY IN A TIGHT DRESS.

SMILE.

SECRETARY SMILES BACK.

SAY "HEY, MAMA, WANT TO COME WITH ME TO
THE LOCAL CANTINAS TO REFILL MY
WINESKIN WITH MESCAL?"

SECRETARY SAYS "I JUST LOVE A HUNK WHOSE
LAMBSKIN JERKIN SHOWS OFF HIS PECTORAL
ENDOWMENTS. YOU MUST BE ONE BAD DUDE,
PAPA! HOW ABOUT A LITTLE ORAL THERAPY
FOR THAT SCAR ON YOUR LIP?"

KISS SECRETARY.

THE NUMB FEELING IN YOUR EXTREMITIES
ABRUPTLY FADES AS YOUR AGILITY REACHES
A NEW PEAK.

(86 words)

Originally, the Secretary was a blonde. But in keeping to the goal of "appropriateness of words", she was changed to Hispanic since CANTINAS and MESCAL are used here (and later, we find out her name is VICTORIA).

And that last sentence — know what I mean, nudge, nudge?

AT THAT MOMENT, THE DOUBLE DOORS FLY

OPEN AND AN OLD MAN IN WIZARD RAIMENTS
STEPS INTO THE ROOM.

WIZARD SAYS "SO, MCFENNY THE BANKER HAS
SENT ANOTHER VANDAL TO INVADE MY LAND!
YOU’LL LAMENT THE DAY YOU SIGNED THAT
PACT. STEP ASIDE VICTORIA, HIS ARMAMENT
AND MAIL ARE NO MATCH FOR MY MAGIC."

SECRETARY ATTACKS WIZARD. A HIT.
WIZARD IS DEAD.

FROM A CONCEALED FLAP INSIDE HIS CAPE,
A SILVER KEY IS DISLODGED.

GET ALL.
DEAD WIZARD IS TOO HEAVY.
SILVER KEY TAKEN.
FLORAL CANVAS TAKEN.
MAGIC WAND TAKEN.

(90 words)

In the actual game, the Secretary (who fell in love with the barbarian in the previous entry, nudge, nudge) really does catch the wizard unawares and coldcocks him from behind with her purse (containing a roll of nickels). Usually, the wizard doesn't die since the monster weapons are generally not that good. But we need to get past this, not enough words for a long battle.

And the FLAP in the CAPE isn't just stateword padding. Often, artifacts needed to solve the quest are carried by monsters that must be killed to make them drop them.

YOU COME OUT THE DOOR ONTO THE PALACE

ROOF. IN THE NEAR CORNER SITS A HUGE
MACHINE AKIN TO A SCARAB.

A MAN APPROACHES. MIRRORS MASK HIS EYES
GIVING NO HINT OF INTENTION.

SUDDENLY, THERE IS A BRIGHT FLASH AND A
PEAL OF THUNDER!

PILOT ATTACKS CONAN. A HIT.
CONAN IS VERY BADLY INJURED.

SECRETARY FLEES OUT AN EXIT.

ATTACK PILOT. A HIT.
PILOT IS IN PAIN.

PILOT ATTACKS CONAN. A HIT.
CONAN IS AT DEATH'S DOOR, KNOCKING
LOUDLY.

DRINK VIAL. SOME OF YOUR WOUNDS CLEAR
UP.

PILOT ATTACKS CONAN. A MISS.

FLEE.

CONAN FLEES OUT AN EXIT.

(98 words)

Although most weapons the player finds aren't much good, it's common for the dungeon designer to reward the player with at least one weapon that's better than anything he can buy back at the Main Hall (it encourages the players to come back to your game even after they figure it out). But you have to get it away from the monster that's carrying it.

And isn't it obvious that the way to escape an enemy you can't defeat is to flee?

LIKE A CONDOR ON COCAIN, YOU FLAP YOUR

ARMS WILDLY IN THE EXHILERATING RUSH
OF WIND.

ALAS, THE AERIAL BALLET IS SHORT LIVED
AS YOUR FALL FROM THE ROOF IS ABRUPTLY
INTERRUPTED BY THE PLAIN OF INKY LAVA
SURROUNDING THE PALACE.

CONAN IS DEAD.

GAME OVER.

(46 words)

Of course, the dungeon designer has anticipated this. I mean what do you expect would happen if you turned and ran in a random direction while standing on a roof? The player has one chance in four of making it back to the stairwell safely (and if the Secretary isn't there waiting, then she wasn't lucky).

CONAN wasn't lucky.

Now, answer honestly. Were you avidly following the story to see how it came out? Were you disappointed that CONAN dies at the end?

Is my writing better than that crap the Games editors picked as winners?