IF with fight scenes

Continuing the discussion from Introducing Ourselves:


There are many well-regarded text adventures that have lots of fight scenes. The games tagged “combat” on IFDB aren’t all necessarily combat-centric; sometimes people apply that tag because a game contains a single battle. But it’s a good place to start. A good specific game to start with is KERKERKRUIP.


If I remember correctly, A Matter of Heist Urgency from IFComp 2022 had a number of fight scenes that were well-received.


Fight scenes are hard to write - both in books and IF. Because to be honest, two or more people hitting each other for an extended period of time is something that is more enjoyable to watch than read about in detail unless plot is worked in. (That sword fight in The Princess Bride - just as much fun in the book.) It works better in RPGs where your stats are part of the story and there may be graphical flourishes, but in parser outside of set piece battles with combat mobs you’d probably get a lot of

You punch the thug in the face. You do 2 damage!

The Thug attempts to uppercut and misses!


I wrote this game which is a choice narrative and a parody of MMORPGs and implemented a simple combat system involving timing and “clicker” mechanics. Many people do not like games that involve countdown timers.

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Nine Princes In Amber pays homage to the source material with an elaborate (yet wildly unnecessary) fencing text interface.


Not a text adventure, but you should check out Toribash.



It’s in the list shared up above, but Gun Mute is a fantastic combat IF game by @Pacian and has influenced much of my own work. It consists of a series of gunfights in a wild world filled with robots and mutants.


A recent one that comes to mind is A Simple Happening by Leon Lin.


Are you looking for fights with good descriptions or fights with good gameplay?


If the former, I can offer descriptions like

> kill demon
With a primal roar, you launch an assault on the demon. Your muscles
ripple with power as you unleash a mighty blow aimed at the heart of
the creature. The demon attempts to parry your strike, but the force
behind your attack overwhelms its defenses. Your sword slices into
the demon's flesh, leaving a deep gash across its dark form.

Sorry cannot resist a little bit of self promotion… :smiley:


“My dear, it appears you have killed me.”

In my experience, the usual approach in text adventures is to make combat narrative, i.e. “just attack at the right point in the scene” like in The King of Shreds and Patches, or the piece I just quoted. If you decide to go that way, it’s fine, and can be very satisfying.

Conversely, I made a couple of text-based RPGs in Tweego+Sugarcube, that naturally have a lot of combat. And if you’re implementing actual combat, then it needs to have a meaningful, interesting back-and-forth. I wrote at least three articles about that, but in short: oops, missed. Oh no, it hit me! How much more can I take? Do I cast a spell? Run away? Or stand and fight?

In that sort of game, the answer should depend on what resources you have on hand, and that should change from moment to moment. No two battles should be the same, even against identical enemies. At least that’s the ideal, anyway, and in practice it will come up less than perfect; but it’s also surprisingly easy to do a decent job with simple rules.

And of course writing matters too. To quote myself:

Upon adding the first monster to Keep of the Mad Wizard, I showed people a screenshot. They had strong emotional reactions, and it’s not even fifty words of a textual description. In a generic fantasy game, too. If that sounds like a high bar, maybe your game has less to say than you thought.

But like other people have pointed out, it depends a lot on the kind of game you’re trying to make.

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Specifically, I want to note that there’s often a tradeoff between these in IF.

Kerkerkruip has honed its combat gameplay extensively because that’s the big thing you do in that game, explore a dungeon and fight enemies. But as a result the messages in combat tend to be very repetitive. In fact, they have to be repetitive, because they have to convey the essential information about the situation that you need for your tactics without breaking your concentration.

Whereas the game Onno is talking about, One King to Loot them All, has very little combat gameplay. There’s only one thing you can really do in a fight, and that’s in fact the whole premise of the game. But as a result, the descriptions can be elaborately-written and finely-tuned to make every scene feel different.

It’s hard to do both (though some games, like Zork, succeed at doing neither), because you’re pulling the player’s attention in two directions at once. Should they be focusing on the gameplay, or on your prose? I’m sure some games do manage it, though I can’t think of any off the top of my head.


I agree. There’s a balance for IF. Just like the agency question - how involved is the player in combat and how much detail does it go into? It’s “the toothbrush problem” all over again - do you simulate a toothbrush and paste and actions related to tooth-brushing with multiple intricate steps; do you just make a single BRUSH TEETH command; or do you not even bother and just add a line if it’s morning “You may as well brush brush your teeth since you’re in the bathroom. Now you’re minty-fresh!”

This same thing also happens in AIF/erotica: the author must decide if “doing the deed” is just narrated, how detailed the “mechanics” are (is it turn-based? are there level stats? are there special skills? are there separate body parts? is clothing involved?) and how boring does it get the more fiddly and granular it is.

One game may just narrate a cutscene: "You lunge at Doctor Notorious, knocking him to the floor. He wipes a trickle of blood from his lip, “You’ll regret that…” [epic non-interactive battle description - the player wins or loses depending on what happens in the plot]

Another may have the narration but may depend on world-state. The player loses the battle unless they have powered up their laser gun with special “Element X” which was likely the macguffin, or just an inventory item they need. The text will vary at some point whether the player wins or loses based on previous actions. They player might need to specify FIGHT DOCTOR NOTORIOUS WITH ELEMENT X instead of just FIGHT DOCTOR NOTORIOUS if the author believes this is a fun puzzle.

Some games will narrate, but whether you succeed might vary solely based on equipped weapon or what the player uses. You fight a bridge troll, the slingshot, the tiny dagger, and the waffle-bat are ineffective and you lose, the Godly Sword of Might, the Studly Hammer of Testosterone, or the Epic Bow of Singing Arrows create a varying cutscene but all result in wins.

  • these are usual IF combat types, it’s basically “the fight happens like this” or it’s essentially a lock-and-key puzzle where you just have to have the right item to win the combat. These are also the easiest to write if an author wants some semblance of combat action but doesn’t want to actually implement a complicated combat system.

Some IF does this and goes further into RPG mechanics. You have various weapons and ammunition and karate skills, and over a series of turns you must decide what weapon and what stance and which type of attack, are you going to attack, parry, guard, etc, in an attempt whittle down the enemy’s hit points before they do enough damage to kill you. Here’s where IF starts to be less useful, since this type of combat mechanic must by narrative nature be somewhat repetitive. You’ll get lists of things like

You swing the sword! You hit! You do 5 damage to the Ogre!
The Ogre swings at you! The Ogre slams you into the wall for 3 damage!

A skeleton appears and joins the battle!

A well-planned game will use text variation so it’s not so repetitive, but this is often the type of gameplay mechanic you’ll find in MUDs or rogue-likes. Usually the player is understanding that there are these combat sections which are less descriptive and just basically a mini game to determine the outcome before the plot kicks up again if the player survives.

It comes down to author intention: Do you want a story, or do you want to interrupt the story occasionally for a mini game? What’s fun for the player?