This might be a clueless question; it seems like the kind of thing that would have been addressed in an extension or in the language documentation, but I can’t seem to find it.
I’m wondering if there’s any way to override Inform’s default choices of which objects “trigger” which pronouns.
For example, a player might naturally refer to a mean junkyard dog as either “him” or as “it”. As far as I can find, though, the dog can be implemented in inform either as male – in which case, the parser will connect “he” and “him” to the dog, but not “it” – or as neuter, in which case the parser understands “it” but not “him”.
You could also have an NPC whose gender is ambiguous, either as a storytelling choice (such as Black, from the classic game Jigsaw), because of in-world uncertainty (what kind of blatant stereotyping was I guilty of in the last paragraph, assuming that mean dog must be male?) or simply because the character’s role is very brief. (“A smiling clerk takes your ticket and hands you a receipt.” The player could type “thank him” or “thank her”…and if the clerk is just on stage for that one brief interaction, there’s no point in having the parser quibble.)
The issue even comes up with inanimate objects (for which Inform will only agree to accept “it”.) But a statue, a painting, or (perhaps especially) a holographic image, ought to accept either “it” or as the gender of the person it depicts. In an old-fashioned sea yarn, the player really ought to be able to call a ship “her”. (Or maybe not just an old-fashioned one. If a major theme of a game is deciding whether Alice, your spacecraft’s intelligent computer, should be treated as a person or as a thing, then you don’t want the parser to take sides on the issue!)
Emily Short’s “Plurality” extension addresses the related issue of singular/plural ambiguity. (So using her extension, “a set of chess pieces” could be made ambiguously plural, and respond either to “it” or to “them”.) Looking at her code, she uses imbedded Inform 6 code to make it work. Does anyone know if there’s an extension, or a non-extension option I’m overlooking, for making gender pronouns more flexible?
If not, I might go ahead and write one, giving full credit to Ms. Short since I would be essentially cribbing her code from Plurality and using it in a slightly different context. But I wanted to check first if I would be reinventing the wheel.