A Comprehensive Guide To Start Playing Interactive Fiction

[size=200]Major Update!!! Abridged Guide To Start Playing Interactive Fiction!!! July 24, 2017!!![/size] (original Comprehensive Guide follows)

  1. Download a free game (or 10,000 free games):


  1. Get Interpreters (there are multiple formats for different game development and operating systems, get the one that meets your needs):


Lectrote is a great option for many of your needs: github.com/erkyrath/lectrote/releases

  1. Learn how to play an IF game:


  1. Use the interpreter to run the game and have fun!

                                                      [i]Original Comprehensive Guide To Start Playing Interactive Fiction:[/i]

I designed this topic as a one stop spot to help people wanting to get started playing Interactive Fiction. It is designed so that even computer novices can quickly and easily get into Interactive Fiction.

I own a modern PC, and run Windows 10. Please reply as part of an addendum to this guide where there are differences due to different operating systems or devices.

                                                                                      [size=150][b]Getting Started Guide:[/b]


  1. You will want to organize things on your desktop in preparation for your new obsession. Create a main folder
    named “Interactive Fiction” to store all of your games, and then create additional sub-folders for each of
    games and there accompanying documents that you download.

  2. Many files are downloaded in a compressed format. To extract compressed files, you will need a program
    such as 7zip. You can download 7zip for free here:


    A compressed file appears as a “folder with a zipper” icon in your downloaded files area. Once you drag the
    compressed folder to the specific game folder you created for it, right click on the compressed folder, scroll down
    to “7zip”, and left click on the “extract here” option. This will extract the files, games, manuals, etc to that

  3. Download an Interpreter or interpreters. Think of an interpreter as a modern game console: you have a
    copy of a game, but it is only playable with the appropriate console. Similarly in
    Interactive Fiction: you have a copy of a game in a specific format, but need the correct interpreter to play that
    game. There are about a dozen different game formats, fortunately most of them are
    conveniently compiled into one program called “Gargoyle”. Essentially you download Gargoyle, you install it into
    the default location (x86 folder), and games downloaded and dragged to their respective game sub-folders will now
    be playable with the correct interpreter automatically selected by Gargoyle.

Gargoyle can be downloaded here, click the “releases” tab near the top, select the download file that corresponds
to your OS: github.com/garglk/garglk

-You will also want to install an ADRIFT interpreter for Adrift formatted games: adrift.co/download
-TADS: tads.org/tads3.htm

-For additional Interpreter links: ifwiki.org/index.php/Category:Interpreter

  1. Masterpieces of Infocom CD-ROM. This is separate from step 3. Create a folder named “Infocom
    Collection” and drag it into your “Interactive Fiction” folder. Copy the files from your CD-ROM to the newly created
    “Infocom Collection” folder.

    Download Windows Frotz 1.19 interpreter from here:


    Install it to the default location which is your x86 folder.

    To play the Infocom games: double click the .dat file of the game you want to play (this
    game will now have an INFOCOM icon next to it).

  2. If you own Infocom games, you will want to save as pdf the original game manuals here:

    I am assuming you can read PDF documents on your pc, but if you can not, download this for free:
    get.adobe.com/reader/ (make sure the correct OS is selected)

Even if you do not own any Infocom games, the manual for Zork 1 will be a good introduction in how to play Interactive Fiction.

  Also, here is a handy guide for playing IF:
  1. Maps. You are going to want to draw maps to help you navigate the worlds you will be exploring. You can
    do this the old fashioned way with a pencil and paper, or you can download this
    helpful free mapping program: trizbort.com/

    If you use trizbort, I would recommend against
    using the automap option. You will want to create the maps yourself within trizbort
    since it will help to develop your spatial awareness abilities, which it very important within Interactive Fiction.

    Also, pressing F1 within trizbort will bring up a very helpful online instructions page.

  2. Download games. You can download games from the Interactive Fiction Database which contains
    thousands of free to download games. Game creators that you particularly enjoy will also sometimes have their
    most recent work available for commercial release.


    Here is a good place on the IFDB to start your game downloading:

    Download options are on the right side of each game specific screen. You will usually want to download the one described as the most recent
    version/the latest release, as opposed to the competition entry (earlier, less polished version), also there are
    usually manuals, walkthroughs, and other extras to download as well.

Here you can find Quest formatted IF games (you can play them directly from the site or you can download the appropriate interpreter to download and play the games offline):

  1. You may also find some interesting games here (only download those IF games from this site that are classified as abandonware):


  1. Here is a handy site to acquire manuals for just about every game you would ever want to play:


  Enjoy!   :smiley:

That’s pretty comprehensive! I’ll admit I didn’t think step 1 would be organising files - probably if I were to get people to start playing, I might direct them to either IFDB or the tips about interpreters (given the huge amount of stuff that can be played online, I might link them to an online Z-machine terp like Parchment… that’s a bit limited though :/).

I agree that my post is not the answer you would give to somebody who asks “so…what is interactive fiction?”. It is assuming that an individual, through whatever level of exposure, already received their hook. Furthermore, I agree that this is probably not the most efficient method of pursuing the hobby. In light of that statement, I probably should have narrowed it down to about three steps in order achieve the desired result. Many of the steps I am even a bit embarrassed that I added, however, the goal was to write a guide directed towards a blank slate whereby 99% of the readers could skip steps that they are already familiar with. I believe the problem is that as I add and edit various sections, in particular the one dealing with interpreters, this is becoming a real hack job of a post. I fear the result of this is that is it either dissuading the target audience, overcomplicating the process, or perhaps even unintentionally giving them bad information in some instances. This of course is antithetical to my original intention.

My IF guide for years was the site of Fredrik Ramsberg:


But your guide is looking good too, however some lines could be filled more. I’m going to check about Gargoyle, what you named.

There is an updated version of gargoyle that was listed in a different topic. I have not updated my list yet with that version of gargoyle as I am getting all sorts of wonky messages on my computer regarding it despite the fact that Malwarebytes premium states it to be a clean file.

This is great man! i’m just starting with IF games and this is really a good guide. Thanks! :slight_smile:

I would like to add, as an experienced IFer, some tips I hope will be useful, while playing the games.

  1. It’s already been mentioned, but I can’t overstress the importance of having an accurate map. Me, I would prefer using basic notebook paper, and make each ‘room’ a square about 3x3 lines, at least, with enough room to make note of any features, immovable objects, etc, that are in that room, or any interesting items or characters. Of course, some rooms are going to be larger than others, but some authors likely use the same standards while writing the games that we use for mapping(1 square=1 room), but pay attention to room descriptions (ie. ‘This is a very large room…’ or ‘Down the long hall to the west is the exit…’) and note any irregular distances. Also, maintain accurate directional relationships–distinguish ‘up’ from ‘north’ and ‘down’ from ‘south’(I use an arrow with a ‘u’ or ‘d’).
    2)Keep a list of all take-able objects. You will find that winning the game is almost all about having the correct objects to make things happen. Also, whenever you use an object, especially if this results in a score increase, indicate on your list that it has been used and what you used it for. 90% of the time, each object you find will have one and only one use in the game. There will be at least one object whose sole use is to hold and carry around other objects, so your hands don’t get too full, this is called ‘the player’s hold-all’, and it’s usually found near the beginning of the game, look for it(though with older games like Zork, there is no hold-all, but your carrying capacity is high, it’s just a matter of logistics, deciding which objects have been used and can be dropped, etc). Sometimes, an object will have more than one use, but most objects will be needed only once. But making this kind of note is useful because if you are stuck anywhere in the game, the objects that have not yet been used can be a clue to what needs to be done next. Also, there may be one or two objects that have no use, these are ‘red herrings’, but this really actually rare, most authors are frugal about creating objects, not wanting to fill the game with much more than is needed, more can complicate the game(eg. Why use the steel rod as the lever to move the boulder, when the tree branch can do the job just as well? The steel rod was the intended solution, the tree branch that fell as you entered was a red herring. The author should have made it tumble over the side of the mountain). Most ‘useless’ objects will be written material that you may need to read for clues. One more thing about objects–keep them, even if you have used them. Use your hold-all(if there is one) to keep all take-able objects.
  2. When you first embark on a new game, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by the area that you have to explore and map. Here, you can be detailed. Take the time to notice every detail, note every exit in every room, and see where all the exits lead. Whenever you find an obstacle, a problem to solve, etc., be sure to explore every room that is accessible, and see what objects you can take and use. Exploration should always be your first step. This is the key to finding the solution to the obstacle. Is it still there? Is it still a problem? It may be that you will need to solve another problem first. Not all problems are locked doors, not all locked doors necessarily have a key. What information is available? Are there any books, printed matter, even better any characters who may have information about the obstacle? Maybe if you can get old Willie out of bed, he can unlock the door for you…?? Does he just snore louder when you shake him? There’s a bucket in the utility room, and a bathtub with a large tap in the bathroom. He’d love a dowse of cold water? Who knows? You have to try it!
  3. Use ‘save’ and ‘restore’ FREQUENTLY. Many games are quite entertaining and interesting, but starting over time and again, just to get to where you left off, gets old quickly. I would ‘save’ my position every time I approach an new obstacle, and every time immediately after I (finally) solve the problem. In fact, here is my technique when I play a new game–
    –1 Explore, explore, explore–map all immediately accessible areas–read all readable material–list all takeable objects–list all obstacles–note all interesting features and characters.
    –2 Restart the game, remembering all that you learned, if you have not noted it down on the map or list.
    –3 Collect all takeable objects available.
    –4 Go to one of the obstacles and ‘save’ your position.
    –5 If you do not immediately know the solution to the obstacle, re-explore the rooms, examine the objects further, talk to any characters, etc. If you do think you have the solution, go ahead and try it. If not, keep re-exploring and researching–if you find a new object, ‘restore’ your previous position and get that object again, return to the obstacle and ‘save’. If a solution suddenly occurs to you, ‘restore’ your position and try your idea(‘restoring’ will put you in an ideal position where you have all available objects and are at the problem site).
    –6 Did you solve the problem? Great. Now ‘save’ your position again. Much of the time, a problem solved will open up a new room or area to be explored, so you repeat the process, with each ‘save’ and ‘restore’ getting further and further into the game. Then, you win.
    I hope you have enjoyed my two cents’, maybe it’s a dollar!