GOLMAC Plays Spellbreaker (1985) New Posts at Gold Machine (1 of 3)

Hello and welcome to a Let’s Play of Dave Lebling’s Spellbreaker!

Spellbreaker is the final chapter in the six-game Zork Saga. That Saga consists of the original Zork Trilogy as well as the subsequent Enchanter Trilogy: Enchanter, Sorcerer, and, yes, Spellbreaker.

I plan to start posting gameplay content and commentary tomorrow, but I thought a preliminary post might help people prepare, especially if they would like to play along.

I will be playing release 87, which is the version included with the “Masterpieces” anthology. Saved games are version specific, so you should choose r87, too, if you might need one of my saves. Or want to show me one of your saves! You can find the correct file here. It will run in every interpreter that I can think of.

I always encourage people to review the documentation and feelies. In this case, they serve as copy protection, too, so you will need them if you want to play.

Frobozz Magic Magic Equipment Catalgog (and manual)
Collectible Enchanter Cards (front)
Collectible Enchanter Cards (back)

edit: Posted the wrong link for the card backs. Fixed now.

Maps and Invisiclues are available as well, but I thought I’d hold off on posting them unless someone makes a request. Which would be fine! The first thing I did when I beat any Infocom game was read all the hints (or as soon as possible, when applicable). I think they’re fun.

I will try to focus on exploration, then leave time for everyone to think about puzzles between posts.

Disclosure: I will be abusing the undo functionality built into Frotz to overcome one specific puzzle, but you can use my save if you’d like to attempt it yourself. I solved it once 30 or so years ago, and I don’t think it’s interesting enough to do again. Just putting that out there!

Let me know if you have any questions before we get started!


Back of box blurb:

Spellbreaker, the riveting conclusion to the ENCHANTER trilogy, explores the mysterious underpinnings of the Zorkian universe. A world founded on sorcery suddenly finds its magic failing, and only you, the leader of the Circle of Enchanters, can uncover and destroy the cause of this paralyzing chaos.

The very core of your civilization is under siege, and only a perilous journey through the black foundation of magic itself will yield a change for survival.

And although your triumb over this unknown Evil is uncertain, you must embark without hesitation and prove yourself the worthiest mage in the land.

See you tomorrow :mage::magic_wand::white_large_square:

16 Likes

I love this series! I played it with friends as a kid (it was already an old game by that point), and somehow I can’t actually remember whether we beat Spellbreaker.

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Me too! Spellbreaker is brutally hard. I don’t usually get hints. That’s not because I’m smart. It’s just that I’m in no hurry. I can wait for inspiration. I definitely needed a hint for Spellbreaker, though!

Welcome to the forum. I hope you’ll stick around and discuss the game.

6 Likes

WARNING: THIS LET’S PLAY SPOILS THE STORY AND PUZZLES OF SPELLBREAKER. DO NOT READ IF YOU DO NOT WANT TO READ SPOILER CONTENT

Note: just to begin, I will show solutions to the opening area and the first major puzzle of Spellbreaker right out of the gate. In the future I’ll try to give people a chance to push through puzzles and problems themselves (between posts), but it seems best to get everyone off to a good start. If you are playing, this transcript ends with a successful encounter with the hermit.

On the basic gameplay loop: in the Enchanter series of games, the primary play loop consists of casting spells to solve problems, finding new spells, then using those spells to solve other problems. Spells in the book must be memorized (this was likely inspired by D&D, which Dave Lebling played at MIT and perhaps after), then cast. Most problems are solved (or solved in part) by casting spells. If you’re ever stuck in an Enchanter game, look at your spellbook.

Spellbreaker begins quite dramatically. The enchanter (that’s what I call the protagonist) meteoric rise to power has continued, as they have replaced Belboz as the GuildMaster of the Accardi-by-the-Sea Circle of Enchanters. While each Circle is independent, the Accardi guild has always held a special place of esteem.

As the story commences, GuildMasters from throughout Quendor have traveled to the Accardi guildhall in Borphee to hear the concerns of the trade guilds, whose magical tools and processes have begun to fail:

Sneffle of the Guild of Bakers is addressing the gathering. “Do you know what this is doing to our business? Do you know how difficult it is to make those yummy butter pastries by hand? When a simple ‘gloth’ spell would fold the dough 83 times it was possible to make a profit, but now ‘gloth’ hardly works, and when it does, it usually folds the dough too often and the butter melts, or it doesn’t come out the right size, or…” He stops, apparently overwhelmed by the prospect of a world where the pastries have to be hand-made. “Can’t you do anything about this? You’re supposed to know all about magic!”

It seems that the spells used by the various trade guilds no longer work reliably, which is jeopardizing their businesses. Moreover, it seems that the guilds are holding the ten Circles of Enchanters responsible. In fact, the meeting may end in violence:

You can hear rumblings from the back concerning Enchanters. The word “traitors” rises out of nowhere. Your fellow Enchanters are looking at one another nervously.

Dave Lebling’s Zorkian humor, which is just a tad drier than that of Meretzky’s zany Sorcerer blends the ominous implications of violence and humourous characterization of a society that is entirely dependent on magic. Even the poets are in on it. Surely it is not my MFA that leads me to laugh out loud, even if that laugh is cut short:

As the huntsman’s accusations are being absorbed and discussed, Ardis of the Guild of Poets takes the floor. He begins to talk about magic rhyming and spelling aids, and their lack.

In the midst of his splendid peroration, just as he was sketching out an insulting mythological allusion in iambic hexameter, the poet turns even greener than usual. His chin elongates and his skin begins to look sort of slimy. In the blink of an eye there stands at the podium, not the orator, but rather a large orange newt. “Breek! Co-ax! Co-ax!” it protests.

Soon, everyone–angry GuildMaster’s, leaders of the other ten(ish) Circles, and random attendees–has been transformed into amphibians! Well, not everyone. It seems that the enchanter and a mysterious, shadowy figure remain unchanged. When that shadow flees the guild, the enchanter gives chase. However, the shadow disappears in a puff or orange smoke!

->s
Belwit Square
This is Belwit Square. To the north is the ancient Guild Hall. A wide cobblestone street runs east and west. To the south is the storied Manse, home of the Mayors of Borphee for generations.
A shadowy figure in a dark cloak flees across the square.

The sinister figure, its face hidden in the shadows of a dark cowl, turns to face you. It nonchalantly jumps into the air, where it is engulfed in a huge explosion. A thick and acrid cloud of orange smoke fills the square. There is no sign of the figure.

->examine smoke
This is a fairly standard cloud of orange smoke, a side effect of a certain class of teleportation spells. These spells are favored by those of a less than honest nature, as the cloud of orange smoke serves to conceal their usually hasty departures.

->smell it
It smells vaguely of orange peels, but the predominant motif is less pleasant and more acrid.

It would seem that the game is afoot! But what about that smoke? For those new to this series of games, a good first step in confronting any puzzle or problem is to check out the enchanter’s current spell inventory. For the most part, that inventory is found in the spell book, though more powerful spells are limited to single-use scrolls. Let’s crack open the book:

->read book
My Spell Book

The blorple spell (explore an object’s mystic connections).
The yomin spell (mind probe).
The rezrov spell (open even locked or enchanted objects).
The frotz spell (cause something to give off light).
The gnusto spell (write a magic spell into a spell book).
The malyon spell (animate).
The jindak spell (detect magic).
The lesoch spell (gust of wind).

Oddly enough, you have never before seen or heard of the blorple spell which now graces (or defaces?) your book.

Interesting! A new “BLORPLE” spell. Who put that there, I wonder? We’ll get back to that. For now, it’s safe to assume that the lesoch spell could dispell the orange smoke.

->learn lesoch
Using your best study habits, you learn the lesoch spell.

->lesoch smoke
A small gust of wind begins to roil the cloud. The cloud is unimpressed. The wind builds, slowly but inexorably, to hurricane force. The cloud starts to unravel at the edges, and then gives up and dissipates. Left behind on the ground is a small featureless white cube.

Hm. A white cube. How did that get there?

->examine cube
This is a featureless white cube.

->jindak cube
This spell detects magic in a large area, so directing it at a specific object
is unnecessarily precise.

The cube is glowing with a faint blue glow.

How delightfully mysterious! It’s magic. We have a magical, mystery object, and a quite mysterious spell. What to do?

Before proceeding, some things to ponder:

  • Do the various trade guilds do any work? It sounds like they mostly cast spells.
  • Why does the enchanter have a strange spell in their book? Why did the shadow leave behind a cube?

OK, let’s try out our new toys:

->learn blorple
Using your best study habits, you learn the blorple spell.

->blorple cube
Abruptly, your surroundings shift.

It is pitch black.

->frotz bread
There is an almost blinding flash of light as the chunk of rye bread begins to glow! It slowly fades to a less painful level, but the chunk of rye bread is now a serviceable light source.

Packed Earth
This is a small room crudely constructed of packed earth, mud, and sod. Crudely framed openings of wood tied with leather thongs lead off in each of the four cardinal directions, and a muddy hole leads down.

Hm, a new area. What’s this all about? The frotz spell, one of the original spells from Enchanter, is so familiar that the enchanter does not need to memorize it. But just to satisfy our curiousity, let’s wander in the dark:

Oh, no! Something lurking nearby snuck up and devoured you!

****  You have died  ****

What a shame.

Some observations about this Packed Earth area:

  • Only three of the cardinal exits are functional at this time. The north exit seems blocked by a mysterious power (“Oddly, although there appears to be an exit there, you can’t seem to force your way through it.”)
  • When the enchanter is in Packed Earth, they are no longer carrying the cube. It will return to their inventory when they exit the room.
  • As we will soon see, each exit is a one-way trip. The only way to return here is to blorple the cube again.
  • The muddy hole certainly seems dangerous (“You see clouds!”).

Ok, well it’s time to explore! Heading east, we find ourselves in a “Hall of Stone.” To the north is a enormous snake eating its tail. It’s blocking three exits, so this must be a puzzle. This is the first of many fantastic environments in Spellbreaker that we’ve discovered. Check out this descriptive text, plus a YOMIN (mind probe) for good measure.

The scaly wall begins to move, undulating back and forth in the confined space. A musty odor permeates the air, and you hear scales scraping on stone. Finally, an enormous head slides into view from the east and stops with one monstrous eye staring coldly at you. You notice something unusual about the huge serpent: the tail, which trails out of the western hole, disappears into the gaping maw of the creature. You realize that the monster must be huge enough to make a complete loop!

followed by

->examine serpent
It is huge, filling the entire corridor it occupies. It stares at you balefully, hissing like a small steam engine. It appears completely unconcerned that it has swallowed its own tail.

then

->yomin serpent
The serpent is bored, constricted, and caged. It’s in a surly mood, thinking of its past. It was once a simple temple snake, well fed on sacrifices. It was too well fed, for it grew great, and its pride grew as well. For declaring itself the greatest of snakes, it was prisoned here, forced to swallow its own tail in mimicry of the true master of serpents. That was an age ago.

Lebling has said that his original goal for Spellbreaker was to explore the mythology of the Zork/Enchanter universe, and this scene is in the spirit of that goal. However, the snake seems unfazed by our magic, so we will have to return later.

To the south of the Hall of Stone, we find a little curiousity. A zipper! It seems like a bag of holding, as there is more space inside than there is zipper outside. There’s an object of some sort inside the zipper, but it is too dark (and spacious) in there to see. That’s pretty straightforward; let’s put a frotzed object inside of it! Inside is a powerful scroll. Such scrolls cannot be copied into our spell book, so we can only use them once. Enchanter had multiple ways to misuse powerful scrolls (KULCAD and GUNCHO), making the game unwinnable. We’ll have to be smart about this.

The scroll reads “girgol spell: stop time.” The spell is long and complicated.

OK. If you like to keep things tidy–I do–this might be a good time to put some objects in the zipper. Since we need to be holding the spell book and cube in order to use them, let’s leave those out. Hm, I guess we should put the burin in there. What is a burin, anyway?

->examine burin
This is a magical burin, used for inscribing objects with words or runes of magical import. Such a burin also gives you the ability to write spell scrolls.

There is also a channel of water flowing here, but none of our spells seem productive. Maybe we have to return here, too. That seems to be everything for this stone temple. We’ll return to Packed Earth. This time, we can try south or west.

Let’s try south, first. We find ourselves halfway up a cliff on a nearby ledge. There’s a scroll here, just lying on the ground!

The scroll reads “throck spell: cause plants to grow.”

Hm, well we haven’t seen any plants worth growing (I think), but getting a new spell is always great! We’ll add it to our spell book and keep exploring. Going up proves to be dangerous:

Cliff Top
This is the upper end of a narrow, winding path up a sheer cliff. From here you
can see that any further extension of the path was destroyed by a rock slide at
some relatively recent time. There are many rocks precariously balanced above
you. It looks like the slightest disturbance could bring them down on you.
Frustratingly, you can see the remains of a small building just beyond the
dangerous area, but there is no way to get there from here.

Something you’ve done has disturbed the rocks above! Dirt and small stones are
trickling down. It looks like the whole dike is about to give way!

->u
The pile of rocks looks so unsteady that attempting to climb over it could set off an avalanche.

Huge rocks and boulders are tumbling down, making an almost continuous curtain above you. If you don’t do something soon, you will die!

->u
I don’t think that you can climb up an avalanche.

You are swept away down the cliff face by thousands of tons of rock. A huge cloud of dust blowing away down the valley is your only memorial.

****  You have died  ****

YIkes! The GIRGOL spell ought to work on it, but to what end? Just to climb back down? Hm, no, it might have something to do with the small building. But should we use the GIRGOL now? No, it would be better to explore more first. What if we use it at the wrong time? Let’s try the west exit from Packed Earth.

Now we are at a “Cave Entrance.” The narrator states that a nearby cave smells “mephitic.” It seems to me that Lebling might have the most impressive vocabulary. I would guess that, of all the original implementors, he was the most concerned with the craft of writing. He really shines in Spellbreaker. I think he may well be at his best here, as there are many striking passages. Anyway, let’s head into the dangerous-smelling cave.

Cave
This is a natural fissure in the rock which was enlarged with crude skill into a
spacious and comfortable room, at least if you’re fond of caves. The floor is
dirt, hard packed in some parts, loose in others. A low passage leads down. A
large ogre bars the passage.

->examine ogre
This is a fairly typical mountain ogre. His carbuncles are a brilliant purple,
and his hair is matted down with something slick and unpleasant-smelling. His
eyes are watering and his nose is running, which doesn’t make him any more
attractive. His whole body is covered by dirty brown fur. He looks like a
particularly ill-favored bear.

->ogre, hello
The ogre grunts nastily at you.

The ogre sneezes.

An ogre is probably bad news, and he isn’t very friendly. Let’s do a little mind probe on him. This seems like a good time to point out that our spells fail often. So we have to cast, fail, rememorize, and so on. Sometimes these failures can happen consecutively; it’s random. In this case, the results are disastrous.

->learn yomin
Using your best study habits, you learn the yomin spell.

The ogre sneezes.

->yomin ogre
The casting feels wrong, and sure enough, your fingers grow numb.

->learn yomin
Using your best study habits, you learn the yomin spell.

->yomin ogre
The casting feels wrong, and sure enough, a huge ball of green light appears,
then dissipates.

->learn yomin
Using your best study habits, you learn the yomin spell.

The ogre sneezes.

->yomin ogre
The casting feels wrong, and sure enough, your whole body feels as if your funny
bone has been struck.

The ogre sneezes.

->learn yomin
Using your best study habits, you learn the yomin spell.

->yomin ogre
You get the impression of discomfort and annoyance. This is apparently not just
for the usual ogreish reasons (general nastiness, bad temper, and lice) but
because the ogre is suffering from hay fever.

The ogre, impatient with your presence and your impudent intrusion, tramples you
to a pulp.

****  You have died  ****

Wow. What can we do for an Ogre with hay fever? Looking over our spells, the GIRGOL spell would stop him long enough for us to head down, but that seems like a bad use for a powerful scroll. Why give him hay fever if the solution is not related to it?

It seems like we’re at a dead end, now. Perhaps we should try the GIRGOL spell on the avalanche?

Let’s give it a go.

Huge rocks and boulders are tumbling down, making an almost continuous curtain
above you. If you don’t do something soon, you will die!

->girgol
As you cast the spell, the flimsy scroll vanishes!
At first, nothing happens. Then you notice that the rocks are no longer falling.
Dust hangs suspended in the air. Rocks appear wired in place. The mountainside
that threatened to bury you floats serenely in midair.

->u
Boulder
You are clinging to a boulder that is floating in midair. There are many other
boulders around, also floating, and lots of dust and dirt, also not moving. One
particularly large boulder with good handholds is above you. Below you is the
cliff face.

What a great, dramatic scene! We climb from boulder to boulder, finally reaching the top. Soon after, the rockslide resumes with a crash. A 500 zorkmid coin is just lying there on the ground. How strange. A stone hut to the west is the only available exit.

Inside, we find a suspicious hermit, a pile of shabby furs, and… another white cube! Perhaps it would open more areas for us. Unfortunately, the hermit won’t let us take it, and we have no magic to disable or convince him (though that seems unsporting, anyway). We should ask him about the cube:

“I’ve been living up here for many years. Wanted to get away from people. Too much noise, too much talk, too much jabber-jabber all the time. I’ve been building this hut for years, too. Couldn’t find the right keystone. It would always collapse after a while, so I never moved into it. I kept hoping to get it right some day; no training in stonemasonry. One day there was a presence on the mountain, like a cloud had come over. Then there was smoke, orange smoke, I think. The next day I found that stone sitting on top of a rock not five minutes’ walk from here. It was perfect.”

Orange smoke, eh? That sounds familiar. The shadowy figure must have been here! How odd that he left behind another cube. His other cube, the one we have, led us right to it! This new cube must be important. Let’s hit him with a mind probe:

The hermit is worried that you will rob him. He is very suspicious. He’s been up here on the mountain for so long that his brains are slightly curdled.

We obviously do want the cube, but robbery is beneath we hero types. Unfortunately, there’s no apparent way to convince him. None of our spells do anything worthwhile. He won’t even take the coin we found (so perhaps it’s not so odd to have found it lying on the ground). It isn’t obvious how or why, but we either misused the GIRGOL spell or else we weren’t ready to come up here. Our first zombie game!

OK, but where haven’t we gone? My map (courtesy of trizbort) seems quite complete. There’s only down from the ogre cave and north from Packed Earth and… down from Packed Earth. The muddy hole above the clouds? Well, we haven’t found anything to help us push through that north exit, so we might as well try down. That’s why we save our game, after all.

->d
You pull back at the edge, noticing just in time that the hole in the floor opens into thin air which goes a long way down before anything solid is reached.

Hm. That sounds pretty bad. But let’s push our luck.

->d
As you leave, the cube reappears in your hand.

Midair
You are in midair. You are dizzyingly high above a trackless wilderness to the
east of a range of jagged mountains.
You have begun to fall.

Suddenly, from above, you are hit by a crashing blow! You twist and see that a
huge bird has taken you in its talons. The bird is nearly the size of an
elephant. It closes its huge claws gently around you, squawks (nearly
suffocating you with its fetid breath), and takes off towards the west.

How cool is that? Since we have nothing to do at the moment, let’s make sure we have a quick escape route. Sometimes it’s best to just BLORPLE away!

->learn blorple
Using your best study habits, you learn the blorple spell.

The roc gains height and heads west towards the distant Flathead Mountains.

After a moment or two, we are deposited in the roc’s nest.

In Roc Nest
This nest is made from skillfully woven tree trunks, small bushes, and large
amounts of mud and roc guano for glue. Giant black feathers are everywhere. In
the center of the nest is an egg the size of a small wagon. Nestled beneath the
egg is a featureless white cube.
The roc perches on the side of the nest, watching you intently.
There is a stained scroll here.

->get scroll, cube
stained scroll: Taken.
cube: The roc, convinced you are threatening its precious egg, drives you away
before you can snatch the cube.

It seems that we can take the scroll but not the cube. That’s two additional cubes we’ve discovered, each gated behind a puzzle. Let’s get out of here for now before something bad happens (a roc ate us in Zork III, remember? Or at least it might have at random).

Back in the safety of Packed Earth, we read the scroll:

The scroll reads “caskly spell: cause perfection.”

“Perfection?” Why does that sound familiar? Ah, yes. The hermit said that the cube (left by the shadow, no doubt) was “perfect.” We probably have what we need now.

We’ll resume at the hermit’s hut. Hopefully, we can CASKLY it! Stay tuned.

Attachments:
Save game
Play transcript
PNG of map

Save for sharing day one.sav (818 Bytes)
LP Spellbreaker Script Day 1.txt (39.2 KB)

7 Likes

Why not the “Let’s play” tag?

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no reason whatsoever!

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YOMIN → Nimoy.

Ridiculously cute!

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Heh. They had a lot of fun with some of these names.

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I’m back at my computer for a few hours if anyone wants to talk Spellbreaker. If you have questions, feel free to AMA!

Otherwise, I’ll do another post tomorrow, probably around noon CST.

I also own a copy if anyone wants a close-up picture of something in the package.

3 Likes

I hadn’t considered this before, but Jigsaw’s figure in black leading you on a wild chase through time is rather an echo of this orange-puffing cube-dropper.

Do the various trade guilds do any work? It sounds like they mostly cast spells.

Casting spell: one zorkmid. Knowing what spell to cast: one hundred zorkmids.

4 Likes

I hadn’t considered this before, but Jigsaw’s figure in black leading you on a wild chase through time is rather an echo of this orange-puffing cube-dropper.

Yes, that’s the first thing I thought, too.

But then who plays Jigsaw any more?

5 Likes

I imagine many people here will have seen this, but you can see Dave Lebling writing Spellbreaker at his terminal in a contemporary BBC show. It’s staged, of course, but even so, Lebling talks through the idol puzzle (though not its solution), and you do get a sense of what the work environment was like.

Interesting to see the way the status line is rendered on Lebling’s monitor, with double-sized characters acting as boldface. This may be one reason Infocom games had fairly short room names.

There’s some genuinely good prose in Spellbreaker. Lebling, I think, is the most writerly of the Implementors, which is interesting considering that he was also, in some ways, the most software-engineer-like one. For much of his time in the 1980s he was also working on more orthodox software, and was a true believer in MDL, or at any rate in that family of LISP-like coding environments. I tend to think that one reason his game designs feature solid puzzle mechanics is because of his aesthetics as a coder.

For those who haven’t played it, one of his sometimes neglected works, The Lurking Horror, is also highly recommendable.

7 Likes

Nobody, apparently… (I know I’m a bit restless and breaking into the enigma machine actually took a couple of days i our world.)

2 Likes

I love that video. Everyone looks (is) so young.


This thread is full of unmarked spoilers!

It will be a while before things really open up, leaving us some choices as to where we should focus our efforts. I’ll play to that point (though I wouldn’t call things “wide open”), then open the floor for suggestions.

When we last saw the enchanter, they were in a stone hut at the top of a rockslide. There, a white cube was used to perfect the structure of the wall. We are here to CASKLY (“cause perfection”) the wall in hopes that we can take the cube. Here goes!

->caskly hut
The hut begins to melt, the stones dripping down like wax and the dirt spraying in all directions. “Now you’ve done it, you meddlesome mage!” screams the hermit. But then the stones start flowing back into place, and the dirt speeds into place between them, and all is changed. The hut looks considerably different, and the cube, no longer necessary, sits in lonely splendor on the ground between you and the hermit.

->take cube
Taken.

Let’s pause and make a to-do list:

  • Deal with the giant snake.
  • Get past the ogre with allergies.
  • Take the cube in the Roc’s nest.
  • Solve the mystery of the exit: “you can’t seem to force your way through it.”
  • Possible puzzle: the water channel in the zipper room.

More than I thought. Even so, I think we’ve exhausted our possibilities in this “Packed Earth” area for now, so we really ought to BLORPLE this new cube and… wait.

->i
You are carrying:
a cube
a cube
a zipper
The zipper contains:

a magic burin
a gold coin
a knife
a smoked fish
a chunk of rye bread (providing light)

a spell book

Two identical cubes? That’s not going to be any fun. Let’s name them. I know some players get pretty creative with these names, but I’m just going to pluck a word from the “room” they transport us to. I’ll call the cube that leads to Packed Earth the “earth” cube, for instance. First, let’s do a quick restore so that I know which one is which.

->write “earth” on cube
The word “earth” is now written on the cube.

That wasn’t so bad. Let’s see where this new cube goes.

->blorple cube
Abruptly, your surroundings shift.

Soft Room
This place is soft, warm and slightly spongy. It glistens in the light. There are passages leading east and south.

Not a lot of exits here. Let’s try east first.

->e
Oddly, although there appears to be an exit there, you can’t seem to force your way through it.

That’s the same language used for that exit from Packed Earth. Curious. For now, I’ll try the other exit.

Meadow
This is a warm, sunny meadow nestled among low hills. Wildflowers abound, and insects buzz lazily through the air. The grass is soft and thick. Birds drift serenely through the sky, where puffy white clouds decorate the bright blue background.
There is a weed plant here. It’s tall, with yellow blossoms dripping pollen.
There is a pair of pruning shears here.

First things first: I write “soft” on the new cube.

The soft cube is a small place. The meadow, for all its apparent charm, has no visible exits. Still, there must be something useful here, since, unless we’ve missed something, there’s nowhere else for us to go.

->examine shears
This is a very nice pair of pruning shears, such as a gardener would own.

->examine weed
This is a ragweed plant. It’s tall, with yellow blossoms dripping pollen. This is the only weed you can see anywhere in the meadow. It’s like a well-kept garden.

The ragweed plant, with its “dripping pollen,” really ought to be of use, since we have an ogre with hay fever on our to-do list. These shears, found conveniently near the weed, strike me as suspicious, but let’s follow that thread (after a save, of course). Back at the ogre’s cave, it seems that something isn’t quite right. The word “pollen” isn’t implemented, for one thing, so we aren’t going to “put pollen on ogre” or some such thing. We can’t hit the ogre with the cutting. We can shake the cutting, but it isn’t enough disable the ogre.

->shake cutting
The ogre shrinks back and lets go an explosive sneeze.

->d
The ogre moves quickly to bar your way.

This isn’t working. As always, let’s check the spell book.

->read book
My Spell Book

The caskly spell (cause perfection).
The throck spell (cause plants to grow).
The blorple spell (explore an object’s mystic connections).
The yomin spell (mind probe).
The rezrov spell (open even locked or enchanted objects).
The frotz spell (cause something to give off light).
The gnusto spell (write a magic spell into a spell book).
The malyon spell (animate).
The jindak spell (detect magic).
The lesoch spell (gust of wind).

Hm. There’s a plant-specific spell, and we haven’t used it yet: THROCK (“cause plants to grow”).

->throck cutting
The weed shivers, tries very hard to grow in its mutilated state and then gives up.

It seems that this is the right track. It also seems that cutting the weed was a mistake. Sorry weed. Time for a restore. It takes two pulls, but we have a much more viable specimen now.

->get weed
The weed pulls partly out of the ground.

->get weed
The weed pulls out of the ground, taking a good-sized ball of earth with it.

Now, since this is one of those mean, old Infocom games, we should get in the habit of saving before trying something new. Also, for Spellbreaker in particular, we should have extra spells (in case of spell failure) and an escape plan. I’ll try going in with two THROCKs (as it turns out, BLORPLE never fails. I wonder why?). As a final test, I try throcking the weed in my inventory:

->throck weed
The spell envelops the weed, quests around its roots looking for something, fails to find it and fades.

OK. The weed needs to be planted somehow. In we go!

Cave
This is a natural fissure in the rock which was enlarged with crude skill into a spacious and comfortable room, at least if you’re fond of caves. The floor is dirt, hard packed in some parts, loose in others. A low passage leads down. A large ogre bars the passage.

Dirt floor, eh? This seems pretty straightforward, provided our magic cooperates.

->plant weed
You plant the weed. It looks like it might even thrive if it gets some attention.

->throck weed
With a spurt of explosive growth, the weed expands to spectacular size. It is now as large as a small tree! As the weed grows, the ogre watches in horror. “Ragweed!” he screams, and then his further comments are cut off by a volley of sneezes like the reports of a small cannon. The ogre begins to rub his eyes, which are watering horrifically, and his sneezes are monumental. He is totally oblivious to your presence.

The ogre doubles over in a spectacular paroxysm of sneezing.

Time to head down. We’re in the “Ogre Lair” now, which sounds like a dangerous place to be. I’ll save my game before experimenting.

->d
You saunter nonchalantly past the convulsively sneezing ogre.

Ogre Lair
This small but cozy hole is the ogre’s lair. Moldy, filthy furs piled in one corner make a crude bed. There is a rocky crawl up to the main part of the cave.
There is a gold box here.
There is a dusty scroll here.

You hear explosive sneezing from the cave.

“Nonchalantly!” Pretty good. Let’s get a look at that scroll:

The scroll reads “espnis spell: sleep.”

Is there anything we’d like to put to sleep? The roc, perhaps, though it may be able to resist such spells. Let’s think about that later. Regarding the box:

The gold box is small, richly ornamented with allegorical figures of dolphins and cryptic symbols. It has a small latch which holds closed the lid.

No telling what that means, but when we open the box, we find another white cube. Perhaps it’s time to go. The only other thing in the room is a pile of furs, and “It looks exactly as you would expect.” Let’s clear out. From a safe location, we can consider our new gear. It’s also time to revise our to-do list:

  • Explore the cube found in the box.
  • Deal with the giant snake.
  • Take the cube in the Roc’s nest.
  • Solve the mystery of the exit: “you can’t seem to force your way through it.”
  • Find a use for the box.
  • Possible puzzle: the water channel in the zipper room.

Despite a reputation for openness, so far Spellbreaker has proven to be quite linear. I find it linear in an interesting way, however, because of the influence of the shadow. The first two cubes were clearly placed for us to find. Will that remain the case? Or will we begin to outpace the shadow? For now, it seems the only way forward is to BLORPLE the new cube. The ESPNIS ROC concept feels like something that would require a level of desperation that we have yet to reach.

Water Room
This is a damp, mossy room. Its floor is mud, and its walls and ceiling are coral. In the gaps in the coral you can see a shimmering film which you realize is actually the outer edge of a huge bubble of air enclosing you. On the north, east and south sides of the room are curtains of bubbles.

One thing I enjoy about Spellbreaker is the way that these cubes allow for fantastical environments that do not require faithfulness to a map or world design. Rather, Lebling is free to create “impossible” settings like this one. It must be a pleasant freedom he has given himself as a writer.

Which exit ought we to try first? If this Water Room conforms to the established pattern, there should be one as-yet unusable exit. Let’s try north first. Well, after saving and memorizing a BLORPLE first, of course.

Oubliette
This is an oubliette. Sheer walls rise for twenty feet above you and lean inward to a narrow opening covered with wooden planks. A small but fast-flowing channel of water runs along the bottom of the chamber between two pipes.

An oubilette (a kind of below-ground cell with a high, unreachable exit in the ceiling) is an unpleasant place, though at least we do not share it with a corpse or a skeleton. We have a “small channel” on our to-do list, don’t we? Looking over our spells, it doesn’t seem that we are any closer to dealing with the channel. After experiementing for a bit, we return to the water room.

This time, we try east, just to discover yet another unusable exit. South it is!

You step out of the room and drop precipitously into the Flathead Ocean, making a terrific splash. The “water” cube, lost in the shock of the fall, makes a smaller splash. It is a little less buoyant than you and begins to sink slowly beneath the waves. Some of your possessions have been damaged by the water.

Mid-Ocean
You are swimming in mid-ocean. Floating nearby are the “water” cube and a bottle.
A large grouper swims nearby.

->get cube
Taken.

The grouper, nosing around for something tasty, swallows the bottle and starts to swim downward, temporarily sated.

Oh, no. This seems like a pickle. First of all, we’ll need to safeguard our items from water damage. Second, we’ll need to figure out how to keep the grouper from swallowing either the cube or the bottle (it eats whichever one we don’t pick up). Finally, we’ll have to be able to escape.

Escaping seems the easiest, since we can just BLORPLE away. What about water damage? The spellbook getting water damaged sounds like a big problem.

The spell book is totally unreadable. The ink has run, and the pages are soaked. What a mess!

Sounds like it’s time to restore. Here are our spells:

My Spell Book

The espnis spell (sleep).
The caskly spell (cause perfection).
The throck spell (cause plants to grow).
The blorple spell (explore an object’s mystic connections).
The yomin spell (mind probe).
The rezrov spell (open even locked or enchanted objects).
The frotz spell (cause something to give off light).
The gnusto spell (write a magic spell into a spell book).
The malyon spell (animate).
The jindak spell (detect magic).
The lesoch spell (gust of wind).

It may be possible to ESPNIS the grouper or CASKLY the wet spell book. Neither really leaps from the screen as great solutions. Time for plan B: the inventory.

You are carrying:
the “earth” cube
a zipper
The zipper contains:

a magic burin
a gold box
the “soft” cube
a gold coin
a knife
a smoked fish
a chunk of rye bread (providing light)

a spell book

Ah-ha! This is our first “no spells” puzzle, isn’t it? We can:

  1. Put everything in the zipper.
  2. Feed the bread to the grouper.
  3. Get the cube and the bottle.
  4. BLORPLE out.

Mid-Ocean
You are swimming in mid-ocean. Floating nearby are the “water” cube and a bottle.
A large grouper swims nearby.
You are beginning to tire.

->drop bread
The chunk of rye bread begins to sink beneath the waves.

The grouper, nosing around for something tasty, swallows the chunk of rye bread and starts to swim downward, temporarily sated.

->get cube
Taken.

->get bottle
Taken.
The grouper swims down out of sight.

->blorple “earth”
Abruptly, your surroundings shift.

Not bad. Inside the bottle, we find a scroll:

The scroll reads “liskon spell: shrink a living thing.”

This seems like a good place to stop. I can think of two possible uses for this new spell, though they may or may not be productive. Here is the current to-do list:

  • Deal with the giant snake.
  • Take the cube in the Roc’s nest.
  • Solve the mystery of the exit: “you can’t seem to force your way through it.”
  • Find a use for the box.
  • Possible puzzle: the water channel in the zipper room.
  • Figure out something to do in the Oubliette room (may be related to water channel puzzle).

Other questions:

  • To what extent has the shadow manipulated things? Since we need, for example, the bottle to move forward (finding more cubes), have they put the grouper in place, and so forth? We seem to have a gap between cubes at the moment with many variables.
  • What should we make of these cubes? Besides elemental ones, there is the “soft room.” What is that supposed to be?
  • Why does BLORPLE always work?

save for sharing day two.sav (1004 Bytes)
Spellbreaker LP Day 2 Transcript.txt (22.9 KB)

9 Likes

It’s the element of softness, of course. Opposite to the element of hardness.

5 Likes

Ah yes, hailing from the poorly defended Plane of Elemental Softness, home of the soft elementals.

Oddly… it is meant to signify life as symbolized by a fluffy bunny. I never would have guessed! Although, bunnies are symbols of fertility and spring…

E: Since we have, for the first time, a major divergence, do you have a preference?

What next?
  • The serpent
  • The channel running between the Oubilette and the Ruins Room

0 voters

1 Like

Welcome to day 3 of my Let’s Play of Spellbreaker! I was worried we’d have a tie for our “what next” poll, but the serpent won out in the end. Before we go, though, let’s take a look at something else on the to-do list: the box.

->examine it
The gold box is small, richly ornamented with allegorical figures of dolphins and cryptic symbols. It has a small latch which could hold closed the lid.

Allegorical figures? Just to see what happens, let’s try putting something in it.

->put fish in box
Strangely, you can’t fit it in.

“Strangely?” That has quite a different feel, compared with the more natural, “It doesn’t fit.” I read that more as “It should fit, but it doesn’t.” Since a cube was there when we found it, let’s try one.

->put “soft” in box
When you insert the “soft” cube into the box, there is a brief burst of light, and the decorations on the box change subtly. They now depict rabbits.

The “soft” room led to a meadow, and a rabbit lived in the meadow. When the “water” cube was in the box, the box featured images of dolphins. If the box takes on the properties of a cube, maybe we can BLORPLE it!

->blorple box
Abruptly, your surroundings shift.

Nondescript Room
This is a drab, nondescript room. The only exit leads south.

Hm…

->s
As you leave, the gold box reappears in your hand.

Cliff Middle
A narrow ledge, barely wide enough to stand on, interrupts the cliff here.

Oh. After some experimentation, it seems that the nondescript room simply returns the enchanter to their original location. I don’t think that we’ve found a use for that. If you don’t already know what the box is and would like to guess (or would like to request an action of some sort), let me know.

Meanwhile, today we will conduct our first experiment with the LISKON spell ("shrink a living thing), so back to Packed Earth we go. The giant sperpent is only two rooms away:

->liskon serpent
The serpent shrinks. You can see it thinning out, filling less and less of the corridor. At first it doesn’t seem to be growing any shorter, but then you realize that this isn’t true. It has swallowed so much of its own tail that it makes up the deficiency by disgorging more tail. Finally, just before the spell stops, the tail tip slips out of the snake’s mouth and almost disappears down the western corridor.

Wow. Since we haven’t used LISKON on anything else, we don’t really have a sense of its scale. It certainly seems to be potent magic! Perhaps we should head north, in case the spell expires (saving first, naturally). Soon, we have reached our destination:

Temple
This is a ruined temple to a forgotten god. Black basalt pillars reach to the ceiling, but some are broken and lie in huge fragments on the ground. The air is stale and filled with the odor of decay. Bats roost in the rafters, the only remaining worshippers. Before the temple stands a tall basalt idol in the form of a huge rodent. Its fang-bedecked mouth is open slightly, exposing teeth and tongue.

As a side note, whether we find ourselves wishing that the description of the gold box said more, or else admiring efficient and evocative room descriptions such as this one, it’s important to recognize that the form (128 story file) and its content (the game) inform one another. Would Spellbreaker have benefitted from an Interactive Fiction Plus (*.Z4) treatment? Who knows? There are perhaps a handful of things that might be considered underdeveloped (the box frequently comes up). Then again, I find the story and prose to generally be, as they say in workshop circles, “tight” (a complement). In any case, the Commodore 64 audience was, in 1985, simply to large to ignore.

But what do we have here? Let’s see…

  • Bats. No description, no response to YOMIN.
  • Pillars (“This place has been abandoned for centuries. It is a mouldering ruin.”)
  • SMELL ROOM (“It smells of decay, rot, and centuries-long accumulation of bat guano.”)

Guano is a recognized noun, I couldn’t get anything but default responses out of it.

The star is, of course, the idol.

->examine idol
The idol is carved of black basalt. It is about twenty feet tall and represents a gigantic and ferocious rodent-like creature with sharp teeth and one staring opalescent eye. The sculpture is rough enough to offer climbing holds.

More strong atmosphere from Lebling. As dangerous as the idol might appear, we cannot resist an invitation to climb it (after saving again, of course):

->climb idol
You can find enough holds to climb all the way up to the head, where you gaze warily at the idol’s mouth.

->examine mouth
The mouth is slightly open. In the narrow space between the fangs you can see a fat, pointed tongue. Sitting on the tongue is a cube.

->get cube
You can see the cube, tantalizingly close, but your hand is too big to fit between the razor-sharp teeth. If only its mouth were open! Glancing at the size of the fangs, maybe it’s just as well.

Yikes! “Razor-sharp?” Well, this doesn’t seem too dangerous:

->rezrov mouth
There’s no hinge there; it’s not a door!

Nope. Back to the spell book:

->read book
My Spell Book

The liskon spell (shrink a living thing).
The espnis spell (sleep).
The caskly spell (cause perfection).
The throck spell (cause plants to grow).
The blorple spell (explore an object’s mystic connections).
The yomin spell (mind probe).
The rezrov spell (open even locked or enchanted objects).
The frotz spell (cause something to give off light).
The gnusto spell (write a magic spell into a spell book).
The malyon spell (animate).
The jindak spell (detect magic).
The lesoch spell (gust of wind).

The immediate, intuitive answer seems to be MALYON (“animate”). We haven’t used that yet, have we? Let’s give it a shot (you’ve saved recently, right?).

->malyon idol
The idol quivers, comes to life, and notices you climbing on it (no doubt from the itching). It grabs for you, and you try to escape. Its razor-sharp claws snatch you up to its greedy mouth, where you can see the white cube on its tongue as you are swallowed.

The MALYON spell works as advertised, at least! Maybe it wasn’t a good idea to use it while physically in front of the idol’s face (the mouth in particular)! We’ll climb down and try again.

->malyon idol
The idol quivers, comes to life, and begins looking suspiciously (and hungrily) around. Fortunately it doesn’t notice you.

->z
Time passes…

The idol is looking around the room, searching for something. No doubt it’s you! It looks a little stiff, but for former basalt, it’s pretty supple.

->z
Time passes…

The idol is looking around the room, searching for something. No doubt it’s you! It looks a little stiff, but for former basalt, it’s pretty supple.

->z
Time passes…

The idol is looking around the room, searching for something. No doubt it’s you! It looks a little stiff, but for former basalt, it’s pretty supple.

The idol turns back into basalt.

Some observations:

  • By default, the idol doesn’t see the enchanter.
  • The idol is animated for three turns after casting the spell.
  • It responds to YOMIN (“You sense a raging anger at the abandonment of its temple, a desire for the destruction of its former worshippers, and an incandescent hatred for bats.”)
  • When the spell expires, the cube is still not accessible.

The MALYON seems like a good idea, but it isn’t enough. Is there something else to cast on it?

->read book
My Spell Book

The liskon spell (shrink a living thing).
The espnis spell (sleep).
The caskly spell (cause perfection).
The throck spell (cause plants to grow).
The blorple spell (explore an object’s mystic connections).
The yomin spell (mind probe).
The rezrov spell (open even locked or enchanted objects).
The frotz spell (cause something to give off light).
The gnusto spell (write a magic spell into a spell book).
The malyon spell (animate).
The jindak spell (detect magic).
The lesoch spell (gust of wind).

Since we’ve already tried YOMIN, that leaves ESPNIS (“sleep”) and LISKON (“shrink a living thing”). Let’s try LISKON first, since it seems like a powerful spell.

->liskon idol
While the idol appears to be made of “malyoned” basalt, it must actually be made of something denser, as this spell has no effect on it.

Nope. Moving on:

->espnis idol
The rodent idol suddenly looks very tired and begins to yawn. You can see the idol fighting it but losing.

The idol is looking sleepy and tired.

->z

Time passes…

The idol is yawning sleepily, its mouth gaping open.
->z
Time passes…

The idol curls up comfortably and falls asleep on the floor.

The idol turns back into basalt. It is curled up comfortably asleep.

This seems productive! A “gaping open” mouth is just what we need. However, we seem to have a timing issue. If we cast the spell immediately after casting MALYON, the idol has time to close its mouth and fall asleep with its mouth closed, unfortunately.

->examine idol
The idol is carved of black basalt. It is about twenty feet tall and represents a gigantic and ferocious rodent-like creature with sharp teeth and one staring opalescent eye. The sculpture is rough enough to offer climbing holds. The idol is sculpted as though sound asleep.

->examine mouth
The mouth is shut tight.

To summarize, the mouth is open one turn after casting ESPNIS and, as things stand, we have cast ESPNIS one turn after casting MALYON. [counting on fingers] I think we should be able to wait a turn, then cast ESPNIS, to freeze the idol mid-yawn. Let’s try.

->malyon idol
The idol quivers, comes to life, gets to its feet and begins looking suspiciously (and hungrily) around. Fortunately it doesn’t notice you.

->z
Time passes…

The idol is looking around the room, searching for something. No doubt it’s you! It looks a little stiff, but for former basalt, it’s pretty supple.

->espnis idol
The rodent idol suddenly looks very tired and begins to yawn. You can see the idol fighting it but losing.

The idol is looking sleepy and tired.

->z
Time passes…

The idol is yawning sleepily, its mouth gaping open.

The idol turns back into basalt. It has been caught in a cheek-stretching yawn.

What a fun puzzle! I’ve said so elsewhere, but it’s worth noting the significance of timing: first with GIRLGOL and the rockslide, and now this puzzle with the idol.

Since we have another choice, I’ll stop here. I may be able to add a little more this evening. Current to-do list:

  • Explore the cube taken from the idol’s mouth.
  • Take the cube in the Roc’s nest.
  • Solve the mystery of the exit: “you can’t seem to force your way through it.”
  • Find a use for the box.
  • Possible puzzle: the water channel in the zipper room.
  • Figure out something to do in the Oubliette room (may be related to water channel puzzle).

If you have a clever idea about the box (and haven’t beaten Spellbreaker before), by all means, share it!

Don’t miss the poll below.

LP Spellbreaker Transcript Day 3.txt (21.9 KB)
Spellbreaker Day 3 for Sharing.sav (1.0 KB)

What next?
  • Investigate the water channel
  • Investigate the new cube

0 voters

4 Likes

I have played spell breaker, but so long ago that I don’t know if this is a spoiler or an idea re: the box. So I’ll blur investigate connections between the box and the blocked passages out of the cube.

3 Likes

Finally caught up – this is very fun! I think I’m actually enjoying the game more than when I played it myself, since I have to confess I found it hard to appreciate Lebling’s writing as I was flitting from place to place banging my head against the puzzles.

I uh have beaten it before, but don’t remember any clever ideas about the box regardless, so think we’re in the clear!

4 Likes

The Lurking Horror is hands down my favorite Infocom title.

5 Likes