Implying yet blocking an area

Hey folks,

I’ve got a bit in my current IF work that’s bothering me. It’s a short piece, so I wanted to keep it small, yet the setting is a castle, and those typically have more than four rooms - just, y’know, in general.

The way I’ve set it up so far is that in the hallway, there is “impassable darkness” in the direction of the rest of the castle, and if the PC tries to go that way, it says “It seems illogical to you to delve into the darkness, when even the light parts of this place make little sense.” I’m reading through IFGems, though, and I’ve come to a part that complains fairly heavily about use of poor excuses to block actions.

Now, I’ve been trying to avoid implying that the area will eventually be open, yet I don’t know how else to confine the PC to this corner of the castle, AND imply that a larger castle exists, without getting it into the player’s head that the next step is trying to go in that direction. Suggestions would be really excellent.


Yeah, ‘darkness’ doesn’t work well as a barrier for me either (that one room in Planetfall comes to mind). Would the game support a scenario of implementing a physical barrier - perhaps a door which cannot be opened without a key? Confine the player ‘physically’ rather than redirecting their actions through the game, if you get my drift.

As a player, I’ve never objected to a message that told me “there’s nothing interesting in that direction”.

I think context is important.

If the player is a tourist visiting a castle, it’s only to be expected that most parts of the castle is off limits, and as long as you don’t indicate that the PC would like to go to the private sections, that shouldn’t be a problem.

If the PC is a thief, you can fill the blocking room with guards.

And I’m sure there are situations where your “impassable darkness” is just the right thing.

I think I’d try to let the scale come from other things. If, for example one of the locations is the kitchen, have it contain tons of food.

I didn’t want to include a door that needs a key, because I didn’t want the player to get stuck on trying to find the key (since it’s a fairly common IF puzzle).

The guy is…well, he wakes up here and the King is keeping him confined to this corner of the castle until he decides what to do with him. So I guess a guard or something would work, if he seems sufficiently immovable and/or uninteresting. I don’t just want to stick a wall there because I do want it to be clear that more of this place exists, but “there’s nothing interesting that way” also seems like a cop-out. Maybe some kind of heavy gate that can only be opened by the king? Or would that induce a player to try to follow the king, when he appears? Argh.


Emily Short addresses this in her essay “Challenges of a Broad Geography”, printed in the IF Theory Reader. Seeing areas I can’t get to has been a long-held gaming frustration of mine, and for some reason it seems all that more apparent and frustrating in interactive fiction. Anyway, she provides some good ways of dealing with that, particularly in the section “‘Can’t Go’ Parser Messages” - the book is a free PDF download or can be bought as a bound book.

That seems like it’s going to be an extremely useful resource; thank you for that!

It seems that what I’m looking for is in the “At the Edge of the World” section and it’s very helpful indeed. I think I can come up with something after toying around with this.