Unwilling to Die

I suspect I got this habit from playing D&D and other group roleplay games, where death of a player character is a lot more permanent, and IF has enough immersion that it calls on those survival reflexes.

Does anyone else try to never ever die in an IF game, if they can help it? Sure you might have an undo command handy but if I sense danger, I try to plan and prepare for it, instead of wandering in as a test, and undoing the death.

Same goes for actions with permanent consequences.

I’ve been using Dreamhold to test out my runner and mapper setup and trying practice using them more before I jump into Piracy 2.0, Andromeda, Nightfall, and others. I finally got my software into a good groove and got a lot more exploring done. Dreamhold is not my first IF game, but I figured a tutorial game would be forgiving enough to test out new software in.

I have not played Dreamhold in its entirety yet, and when I got to the room with the burned-up harp, I saw the intense amount of light spilling out of the cracks around the eastern door, and I was like “Mmmm-nope! The sun itself is probably right on the other side of that door! That’s probably why the harp looks like that! Someone opened that door and set everything in the room on fire!” So I left, and didn’t think to test it lol.


If you try to do it in my ParserComp2022 entry Gent Stickman vs Evil Meat Hand, you will get sad and you will enjoy it less.

I also have a heavy D&D character developement and survival background, but with time our RPG group start to play mainly Call of Cathulhu, and we understood that to die is part of life, and that the important part was trying to die in the most “German Expresionism” style posible, and laugh.

There’s a very interesting 2021 doctoral thesis (in Spanish, sorry) related with videogames and difficultities I’m curently reading that I would recomend for anyone trying not to die: EL ALMA OSCURA DEL JUEGO: TEORÍA Y MOTIVOS RECURRENTES DE LA DIFICULTAD COMO ESTÉTICA LUDOFICCIONAL (Mateo Terrasa Torres)) (THE DARK SOUL OF THE GAME: THEORY AND

To die in videogames is useful in more than one way. Good luck with your heroic Journey! :wink:


If I die in an IF and I am not loving the game, I take it as permission to quit. If the game automatically rewinds me to the decision-making point that caused the death, that helps me stay with it. I’m bad at saving, so I often haven’t saved well enough to go back, and doing more than one or two UNDOs is annoying.

One of the main reasons I don’t finish IF games is that I died and I just didn’t care enough to try again.


This has come up fairly recently, I think. It seems that contemporary players often view death as disruptive to the narrative or else a cause of tedious, repetitive gameplay.

Perhaps not surprisingly, I, the guy midway through an Infocom playthrough, don’t mind so much. Infocom deaths were often humorous, and many gave hints as well. Starcross had some particularly informative deaths, I think. Deaths can be fun! Embrace them.

Actions with permanent consequences are more worrying, especially those with negative, hard-to-detect consequences. I give old-school games a pass on zombification (putting the player on a dead-end track), but anything post-1989 gets a raised eyebrow from me.


Providing death is the result of a reckless action, it’s an excellent way to add some levity into a story. I always see having, at least some, comedy events as part of the entertainment.

This is why i often feel let down when the game says things like, that’s a bad idea or you don’t really want to do that.


Oh man, I am kind of the opposite these days, at least in parser games! The combination of largely-forgiving design, easy access to undo, and a gameplay style that encourages experimentation means I usually have a lot of fun looking for reckless stuff to do – I try to eat even the most dubious foodstuff I, wave hello to the monsters as they rampage towards me, cheerfully traipse into clearly-signposted danger zones… In games with a more somber vibe I tend to adjust my play accordingly, and I definitely respect folks who find that kind of behavior undermines their engagement with a story, but for me, farce is one of my favorite forms of humor and player death can provide a lot of it!


Yeah, UNDO has really changed my approach here. I used to be extremely cautious in games like the original Adventure because dying would mean a lot of backtracking and trying again.

But nowadays it tends to be fairly painless; games like Hadean Lands encourage experimentation because even if something fails horribly (you lose an irreplaceable resource, you lock yourself out of an area, you just straight-up die) it’s not much effort to get back to where you were. Which means I’ll come up with a “glass decoherence formula” and go “huh, this sounds like a fun thing to apply to the single window separating me from the deadly vacuum of space”.


Dreamhold is a funny case because it’s meant to be an introduction to old-school IF – the kind where you can die a lot and even get stuck in unwinnable states. But Dreamhold does not itself allow you to get stuck in an unwinnable state. It tries to demonstrate the concepts without actually screwing you with them.

You can die, but only in one specifically dangerous location. And the game assumes your interpreter supports UNDO; dying is meant to be something you try and recover from.


What kind of weirdo would do stuff like that?

[glances furtively in the direction of the Cragne Manor thread]


As someone who plays a LOT of Doom: Absolutely true. For some reason, though, it just feels different in IF lol.

It’s like this for me if my attempted solution seemed like the obvious correct answer, or if my death was the result of a countdown. Like, screw you game, what else could I possibly have done? Or for a countdown: I do not feel like UNDOing the last 10 turns to reset the countdown.

Yeah, as mentioned above: when I’m playing Doom, or even Minecraft, death is very much a “whatever” kind of feeling and I just keep going. Sometimes, if I’m in an absolutely ridiculous situation in Doom, dying is hilarious.

However in IF, which is a lot more puzzle-oriented, dying sort of feels like I failed the test and the teacher is just gracious enough to let me attempt it again. I’m just thankful for the UNDO command. However, there are situations that I mentioned with Amanda’s reply where the death is a slap in the face, and I gotta just take a break for a bit lol.

Ugh, yeah. At least trust the player enough to take responsibility for their own actions. The only time I would ever implement a “nah, not feeling like it” response is if it’s a bad social action with an NPC that would be enough to completely derail the rest of the story, and I can’t be arsed to go full Deus Ex and provide a game state where nobody cooperates with you anymore.

However, if it’s a suspicious liquid and I’m like “hell yeah, a suspicious liquid! I’m really thirsty!!” then game should just let me deal with the consequences, because they’re pretty simple.

Kinda relates to the whole “consequences are hard to detect vs obvious” problem that Drew mentioned.

AHAHAHA! The image that this puts in my head is amazing! I have a good friend who does the same thing, too. He will make a beeline for the most ridiculous stuff for the sake of comedy, lol! The next time I meet a monster in IF, I’m waving hello, ahahaha!

No no, 10/10, perfect idea. Can’t imagine why that could have gone badly, lol! I’m putting Hadean Lands on my to-play list now!

Ohhhhh…huh! I think I’m still figuring out how to identify old-school vs new-school IF. I keep forgetting to check the release dates.

Also: eheheheheh I think I have found that one location! :blush:

Also, you are really good at writing descriptions for really mysterious and arcane things. Your environments in Dreamhold really amaze and immerse!

Runs full-speed at the thread

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I mean, how do you think the science of alchemy has progressed? Through apprentices trying inadvisable things, and their successors writing down the results!


I’ve been thinking about this very thing. The game I have been working on is a text adventure / CRPG hybrid, and in CRPGs, it is common to have a total party kill happen. Then the game ends, and you can restore from a save or what have you.

Like @AmandaB says, it is an invitation to quit. I don’t want people to quit! So should all six party members get to zero hit points, I just make the game “wake them up later” with a single hit point. The game can then present an interesting challenge to get back to decent health and safety.


I’ve been feeling grumpy about Anchorhead repeatedly setting things up so you only begin to have a clue how not to die in a situation by dying first. I have a strong expectation of IF being merciful or polite on the proposed recast Zarfian cruelty scale.

And yet I’m pretty okay with the zillion instadeaths I’ve suffered in NetHack. So, in conclusion: I’m not terribly consistent about this.


I remember stepping away from Anchorhead after a terrible situation with William and the well where I did not time things correctly and had failed to do adequate saves. But ultimately I could not stay gone.

I tend to think of all the instadeath in that era as just the way things were then. Perhaps that’s not true, but it’s my memory of the time-- you just took it because that’s how IF rolled. I wonder how less likely modern audiences are to play classics like Anchorhead because they now have an expectation that games won’t put them over a barrel. I also remember some rage at Counterfeit Monkey for a timed puzzle (down in tunnels near the end? It’s been many years). I am VERY BAD at remembering to save; and the more engaged I am with a game, the less likely I am to remember. It puts me in bad situations very often.

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