Riddle in Beyond Zork

In Beyond Zork, very close to the starting room, there is a riddle:

My tines be long, 
My tines be short, 
My tines end ere my first report.
What am I?

The answer is lightning. I just googled it because riddles are really not my thing (especially using some kind of archaic English…?). I still don’t know what “tines” or “ere” even mean…

Anyway, I have absolutely no idea why the answer is what it is, much less how anyone could possibly solve it. Any ideas on the logic behind this?


This is a terrible riddle. After looking at the answer I can see the logic : tines are the sharp parts of a fork (fork of lightning), and thunder (the report) comes after lightning hits (presuming you are sufficiently far away from it), so the fork stops ere (before) the noise. But I would never have gotten this, either. Now I’m glad I never played that game.


as someone who’s written 60 riddles myself, this is a pretty crappy riddle.


Thanks! To be honest, I am actually enjoying it quite a bit. Other than the riddle, everything else has been quite smooth. I got stuck in a couple of things but then I realized the answer was in the manual/feelies. Of course, it takes a specific taste to enjoy this kind of RPG/puzzle mix, and you have to modulate expectations, but it works for me!


I remember solving this without much trouble back in the day. :person_shrugging:

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It’s not a great riddle because “long” and “short” are kind of irrelevant to solving it. The meaningful part (which is how I solved it) is “I’ve got tines and you see me before you hear me.”

If you make the connection of “tines” to “fork” (and pretty much nothing else has tines[*]) it’s easy. If not, well, any riddle is hard if you don’t get it.

[* This was five years before A Fire Upon the Deep.]

I thought the riddle in Zork 2 was weak also. (Any idiot with a rope and bucket can draw it up!)

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I got the Zork II riddle right away, but struggled with the one from Beyond Zork.

I’ve always been intrigued by Jimmy Maher’s assertion in 2012 that riddles had fallen out of favor in IF:

Riddles aren’t really approved practice in interactive-fiction design these days, largely because they’re just so dependent on intuition and all too often very culturally specific, and thus notoriously variable in difficulty from player to player. There’s also a certain element of cheapness about them, a quality they share with mazes.

The question of cultural specificity interests me! Nick Montfort, even longer ago, asserted that the literary antecedent of [parser] IF was the riddle. I think it was him; I’m winging it.

My dislike of BZ is such that it is too easy for me to slip into “game over there eating crackers” discourse,

EDIT OOPS! I was thinking of ZZ. I remember thinking that it was out of place, but the setting (the lightning in the field) helped it along. It’s been a while. I guess I’ll have a chance to write about this soon, but isn’t this an oddly uneven game for Moriarty?


The game offers a nudge for this riddle. In a nearby room when you try to cross a field, the response is something like “Forks of lightning dance across your path, and the clouds boom with laughter.”

I remember getting the answer, but I don’t think I would have gotten it without that nudge.


I was getting ready to post exactly this - I’m pretty awful with riddles and I remember finally guessing it as a teenager only because I figured the answer had to be something clued in the environment.

The difficult leap is having experienced enough poetry to understand “report” has multiple meanings as a sound and knowing what a “tine” is - this before you could easily search the internet on demand. I’m curious now if elsewhere in the game there might be other game text (isn’t there a trident at some point?) that describes “tines” of a fork and narrates a loud sound as a “report.”

In my opinion it’s not the worst thing because Beyond Zork is a bit rogue-like and has multiple ways of solving puzzles and that’s kind of why it’s my low-key favorite because I actually was able to make progress in it at my young age.

Although it’s possible you can be screwed by the RNG if you don’t know alternate methods to proceed. I don’t remember if that puzzle is a bottleneck or not. I know I would totally mulligan and re-start the game if the squeezy mold in the tunnel at the beginning didn’t help me out.


I enjoyed it a lot. The puzzle blocked me too, as I was wondering if I was missing an enemy to help me get one more level to make the cruel puppet a lot easier.

I never made the forks connection even though I must’ve touched the “forks” text.

I remember getting the hintbook to solve it. BZ, like Zork Zero, had some copy-protection in the form of “here’s how you raise your stats.” I was really impressed by the random rooms in the sub-areas. It relies on less (or more interesting) received knowledge than ZZ. While you had to play Nim in ZZ, I liked that you could find a way past the slug without combat.

Going back to it years later I remembered this puzzle. So I was able to see most of Zork. I really do like some of the later ones–I can’t remember them exactly so they provide a challenge, and you have to use some deduction to figure what to do!


Well, that’s checkable…

Nope, the word “tine” doesn’t occur anywhere else in the game. “Fork” only occurs in the content dibianca mentions above. “Report” occurs once, but not in a way that helps with the riddle.

“Survivors have reported a wide variety of birds, reptiles and other unclassifiable dangers.”


I got the riddle eventually, but also would not have without the nearby lightning.

Zork Zero gripes

I was very frustrated by the implementation of the RPG mechanics, particularly the way they were treated as keys of a sort. I don’t think a player should be able to create a character that can’t finish the game. What is the point of that?

Jimmy Maher was understandably exercised over getting zombified after a long period of play. I get his frustration. He did get a response from Moriarty, which must have been nice.

I don’t think it should have undermined the ending of Spellbreaker, since I think that is Infocom’s best ending.

I didn’t want to see the geography of Quendor; I preferred my imagined version.

It just wasn’t ever going to work for me, though as always I appreciated Moriarty’s skilled writing. I think I still like it just for that. Zork Zero is the only one of the bunch that I actively dislike.

Beyond Zork was a long time ago for me and I haven’t revisited it recently, but if memory serves I found the mix of puzzles and RPG elements to be fun enough. I played all the way through it on a friend’s computer in two or three not very long sessions. I found it much easier than many other Infocom titles.

Can you truly get stuck based on the randomness of objects and effects, or did they create it so there was always a solution? I always restarted if I got the wrong item/spell effect but that was part of the appeal - there were different things to work on at any given time, and once I discovered a known spell, I was like “now I can go do this safely…” I suppose it’s a standard rogue-like trope where it’s similarly a dice roll whether you can get very far or not.

More Beyond Zork, spoilers

You can have an unwinnable game just by creating a character that can’t win. The stats are used to gate progress. For instance, the final confrontation requires a certain amount of compassion.

There aren’t enough stat-raising items to make the game winnable for every character possibility. The manual doesn’t really warn you about that, and the character creation screen doesn’t tell you, either:

This is what the manual says in the “Hints for Playing”:

If you are creating your own character, remember that all of the attributes are important. Don 't be tempted to put all your eggs in one basket (by giving yourself lots of endurance, for instance, but very little luck or dexterity); otherwise you may not be able to solve a puzzle or defeat certain monsters. The attributes of the “default” characters are all sufficient to complete the story.

The problem is that the minimum stats are not identified. I guess you could look at the randomized characters and pick the lowest value for each stat. But what a weird thing to have to do. I think those minimums still assume that you’ve raised your stats appropriately. I’m pretty sure you can miss some of those opportunities without knowing.

Some players, like JM or me, got zombified, lost progress, had to start over, or had to reroll items that they already liked. I don’t think people who like the game had those experiences? If that hadn’t happened to us, we’d probably have a higher opinion of the game.

Yeah, I think it’s a noble experiment, but fundamentally roguelikes feel much easier to pick up and put down. At least to me.

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I don’t think a player should be able to create a character that can’t finish the game. What is the point of that?

(Sorry I actually don’t know how to quote correctly with the person’s name…!)

I can’t say if this was intentional or not, but I find that the question of actually finding the “best” combination of attributes to solve the game (or, at least, to solve it my way) is just one more “puzzle” that I want/need to solve. For example, questions such as what is the minimum amount of magic I need to be able to read scrolls? and what is the minimum amount of dexterity I need to climb the wine crates? (and so on) also make me curious and motivate me to try to min/max the character in my own way. I personally don’t mind restarting in a game like this because I can get back to wherever I was in just a few minutes, and for me the real “solving” lies not in actually typing the commands to do something, but more in learning the puzzles and solutions in a meta way.

Also, the manual says the game can be solved with any of the preset characters, and it seems that the author took care to make sure that there are ways to raise the attributes to minimally-acceptable levels (such as the squeezable moss, attribute potions, kissing the unicorn’s horn, etc). All in all I find the game to be a lot of fun and quite well-designed in general (although I have not finished it yet).

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Your experience belongs to you, naturally. Who am I to argue? I’m glad you are having a good time.


(Ok figured out the quote thing.)

Can I hijack the thread and ask for a nudge? Am I supposed to be able to get out of the cellar after getting the wine? Right now I’m using the Sayonara staff but I have a feeling that there must be some simpler solution (if there is, please don’t say what it is; only knowing it exists is enough!).

keep looking in the cellar, I think? It’s been a while. If you want to save staff for another time (it’s quite useful).


Thanks!!! Solved it, that was pretty cool.
In situations like these my brain seems to settle back to “you need to find another item/spell in another area before you can solve this” and for some reason that totally screws up my reasoning. But just knowing that it is within my immediate reach turns a knob and everything becomes clearer.