From my understanding, using instead should be viewed as a method of last resort. That’s perhaps a little dramatic but there you have it.
For example, is this an appropriate use of instead or is there a less ham-fisted way to achieve this?
The front porch is north of the garden. "The front porch is dark. there are tracks here.".
The tracks are in the front porch. the tracks are scenery. the description of the tracks is "These are some animal tracks in the snow.".
instead of getting tracks:
say "you try to pick up the tracks but all you do is mix up the snow, obliterating any sign of their presence.";
now the description of the front porch is "The front porch is dark.".
That’s a perfectly fine use! The usual advice is to reserve “instead” for exceptional cases—things that aren’t the normal workings of the action.
This is an exceptional case, since you want to completely subvert the normal workings of the “taking” action, so “instead” is perfectly appropriate.
Though, I would do it like this:
Some tracks are fixed in place in the front porch. "There are some tracks here."
Instead of taking the tracks: say "You obliterate them. Oops."; now the tracks are nowhere.
Thank you. That’s more concise. Would I still need to do a new description for the location though to reflect that the tracks were gone?
No, now that the tracks are fixed in place rather than scenery they produce their own text in the room description. Once they’re moved to “nowhere” they won’t be shown in the room description.
I’m unsure, but in the example, perhaps carry out can be used ?
carry out taking the tracks: say "You obliterate them. Oops."; now the tracks are nowhere.
Best regards from Italy,
You shouldn’t. I’m pretty sure that unless you also do something like “stop the action” (it might be one of the other phrases, I can’t remember) it will go on to follow the report rules.
You are correct.
Technically, “carry out” with a “stop the action” could work—but the convention is to use check/carry out/report for the standard functioning of an action (taking an object requires it to be portable, moves it to your inventory, and says “Taken.”), and before/instead/after for exceptional circumstances (taking the tracks obliterates them).
There’s nothing wrong with breaking the convention, but it can sometimes lead to mysterious errors when extensions assume the conventions are in place.
In this specific case, I think you would need to disable the can’t take scenery rule in order to use a carry out rule in the first place.
My impression is that using Check instead of Instead would be okay, and can improve performance when there are a large number of exceptional cases.