Anyone remember Below the Root?

Below the Root is a graphical adventure game I’d consider IF-adjacent. It’s one of the games I’ve always wanted to finish. When I had it as a teen I never had the time to dig in properly and finish it. I remember it being fascinating though. I think I had it on my Apple II, but it could have been my C-64.


Great game. I played on c64.

Beat it with multiple characters. Very replayable.


I played it quite a bit (and read the original books!) but never managed to complete it.

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If I recall correctly, the physically weak PC with the most magic (I don’t recall the terminology) was the easiest route. You had to be more careful with hazards, but getting around was much easier. I don’t think I ever beat it with the most physically powerful character.

I liked the very simple speech/mind reading action. In those days, it really felt deep and evocative. Each home had its inhabitants. Despite the sparse interactivity the world seemed alive to me. It was a very innovative title and the best Spinnaker/Windham Classics game mechanically. The author considered it an extension of her fictional universe, while most Spinnaker games were adaptations.

I’ve gone back to it a couple of times over the years, and it holds up better than most Spinnaker games, though I’ve lost my taste for platforming, I’m afraid.

If I ever finish with Infocom, I’d like to write about some Spinnaker titles, including this one as well as Telarium games like Perry Mason and Nine Princes in Amber.


I didn’t learn about this game until a couple of years ago and I don’t understand why.


Below the Root is very possibly my favorite game of all-time. It’s amazingly good. It addresses the question of “how can we make an interesting and engaging action-adventure video game that doesn’t just boil down to a story about punching or shooting people?” way way better than almost everything else I’ve seen try to address that question. Makes great use of the source material to build something new. Terrific compact storytelling in bursts of <40 characters. Wonderful use of little musical hooks. And on and on.

Just a great, great game.


Just read the Gameplay section of the Wikipedia. The ambition and ethics of this title would be subversive now let alone when it was released. Game and books added to my list of stuff to do.

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There are tradeoffs…

Pomma (the physically weak but spiritually gifted child you mentioned) is a rough go for a new player because leaping distance is proportional to physical stamina and Pomma can’t make a lot of jumps in the early going. Her spirit advantages are helpful, but the tradeoff is that exploration is slower because you need vine ropes to get to places the adult characters can easily access. (Stamina and spirit skill alike can and must be increased during the game, but the characters that start with a physical advantage are always going to be easier to move around)

Neric, the default character, really is overall the easiest go. Genaa, who starts with no spirit skill definitely the hardest, but maybe the richest narrative experience since each of her spirit skill acquisitions is a big deal.

Herd is equivalent statistically to Neric but as an Erdling runs into more prejudice which can slow progress. (On the plus side, it’s easier to keep Herd and Charn fed because they’re able to eat meat. Charn’s physical abilities start between those of Pomma and the three adults, making him an intermediate difficulty choice.)

(And yes you have to eat and sleep and no it’s not that bad and even is used in some plotful ways.)

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