Which body parts, and why?

I’ve been doing some research into Inform’s games, plus FictitiousFrode’s AIF framework and that one game with the one girl, because I’m nothing if not thorough about such matters (*cough cough*) and came up with the following results.

Table of Body Parts (some NSFW items)

Hands: AMFV Borderzone H2G2 Moonmist N&B Phobos Sherlock Shogun Z0rk
Eyes: AMFV Borderzone H2G2 Moonmist N&B Phobos Shogun Z0rk
Head: AMFV H2G2 Moonmist N&B Phobos Shogun Z0rk
Feet: N&B Sherlock Shogun Z0rk
Mouth: Borderzone N&B Phobos Shogun Z0rk
Ears: AMFV Borderzone H2G2 N&B Phobos Sherlock Z0rk
Nose Borderzone N&B Phobos Z0rk
Balls: Shogun (“cojones”)
Breasts: Phobos
Fingers: Shogun
Kneecaps: Borderzone Phobos
P◯n◯s: Phobos
Shoulder: N&B
Spleen: N&B
Stomach: Shogun
Teeth: AMFV H2G2
Vag◯◯◯: Phobos

Struck: commented out in the ZIL.

Sherlock has a single “body part” object representing: arms, eyes, face, hair, lips, legs, mouth, nose, shoulder, stomach, throat… and the body as a whole.
Frode’s AIF framework adds: armpits, thighs, chest (as male equivalent of breasts).

My current project has: breasts, butt, hair, legs, tail.

For some games, the use of particular body parts is obvious, what with the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal requiring you to tie a towel around your head, or in Shogun your balls are representative of courage and committing seppuku kiiinda requires a stomach. And then there are some instances of shaking hands.

(On the other hand you get things like losing body parts to bugged bodies of water but that’s something to learn from!)

My current project mostly has some of these body parts to learn scoping in I6 (they don’t after all appear in your inventory) and to help describe the player character. There’s no real use for any of them yet.

So what I’m wondering is, what use would some of these various body parts have in general or in more specific settings, and which would you add?

(Oops, accidentally posted before I was done!)


People try to “hold nose” for smell situations. “Put hand in” for reaching in a hole or wearing something glove-like…


I am generally a fan of making body parts be a synonym for the player, rather than separate objects.

Of course some games require more specific handling, but many don’t. The Bugblatter scene would work fine if PUT TOWEL ON ME, PUT TOWEL ON HEAD, and PUT TOWEL ON EYES all referred to the same player object. If PUT TOWEL ON HANDS produces the same effect, well, the chance that the player will complain about this is near zero.


I usually wind up with; feet, hands and head.


A further resource of potential interest is Aaron Reed’s Commonly Unimplemented: one thing it does is recognize body part names to give an error message saying “You don’t need to refer to body parts” instead of a generic parser error.

Simulationism can be a fun rabbit hole to go down, but it’s relevant to keep asking whether it actually serves the game. Most games don’t bother going into detail about body parts and, like Zarf said, players aren’t disappointed by the absence.

If one were doing a detailed rogue-similar and wanted to represent armor on different body parts, it could become relevant for that case.


This seems right to me. I usually don’t implement body parts unless the game itself draws attention to them, at which point a little work is required to respond to the ideas this might have planted in the player’s head – how much determined by the details, of course. In one bit in one of my games, the player gets stung by a bee in their foot, so I had FOOT just redirect to the player; given that nothing else interesting was going on with the player’s body that was all simple enough since X PLAYER should also logically highlight the recent sting in the foot.

In another game, though, I had a couple of puzzles that depended on the player’s body parts, so I had to separately implement their ears, nose, and eyes, some of which also worked as containers… it was worth doing for the puzzles (and associated jokes), but certainly not otherwise.

noted the near-lack of hind quarters (my favourite refined term for the bottoms…)

I don’t hide that I toyed (aka fooled) around eye covers for a reversal of the old darkness puzzle…

sooner I’ll tackle one complex part of what now is my main WIP, akin to a famous (or infamous ?) scene of Heroine’s Mantle… for now i’m preparing the backstage… so this debate can be interesting for me…
(for who known: of course there’s unusual body parts…)

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

For thorough implementation in a game where anatomy isn’t crucial but referred to, one solution is to implement a general “body” as part of the player and/or NPCs and create all various parts as synonyms so the player doesn’t get told that they don’t exist.

Minimally, in Inform 7


That’s what Sherlock did with a bunch of body parts of lesser importance. Only hands, feet, and ears are represented as distinct own objects.

In fact, I missed a few items in that part of the OP!


Why body parts anyway?

Let’s say your story has a British context, and one of your characters says, “You need to pull your socks up”.

That phrase is figurative. It evokes the idea of a child who has not yet learned to own for himself his outwardly projected presence toward others.

It doesn’t mean that because there are socks there must be feet. Or that due to feet we have to care about toenails or nicely-fitting shoes.

That phrase is uttered in nursery schools, and in the hardest prisons.
Its meaning is congruent in both environments. But that meaning is not related in any way to the noun in the phrase. Those words have a significance all of their own.

Compare that to what happens in Shogun: Rodrigues, who speaks Spanish, asks if you have no cojones as you worry about a safety line. Having the balls to do something, or not having them, is also a figurative phrase. But Rodrigues gets a pass I guess cos he doesn’t call 'em by any English term.

But remember, any word mentioned in a description lends importance to it and implies that it should be an object in the world that could potentially be interacted with - or at least shouldn’t have its existence denied. That’s why people are routinely cautioned to mind their descriptions for combinatorial explosion. If the author offhandedly mentions wallpaper, the player will want to know what color it is and the parser denying its existence serves to break mimesis. (Yes, the M-word.)

What you want to avoid (at least in advanced implementation) is something like:

You set down the ancient cardboard box and clap your hands together to brush the dust off of them. Good job doing the dirty work of moving that to the attic.

You can’t see any such thing.

If an NPC figuratively tells you “You don’t have the cojones for the job.” - especially if the player doesn’t know what that is - it’s going to prompt them to investigate what they are missing. Is cojones like a special type of screwdriver the other NPC has that I need to go on a quest to obtain?


Cue long convoluted fetch-quest where you climb a tree to get the egg, trade the egg for a crowbar to break the oaken casket to get the silk scarf from the princess’ cadaver. Give the silk scarf to the princess’ lady in waiting who grants you access to the King’s Tool Shed where you find an electric nutcracker which you can finally trade with the aforementioned NPC for his cojones. Use the cojones to screw the lid back onto the can of silliness.


None of you have the cojones to implement that.

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Exactly! That’s the whole point of the fetch-quest. Getting the necessary cojones. Which makes this something of a snake that bites its own tail. No cojones → no implementation of the quest necessary to obtain the cojones.

It’s the Curse of the Empty Nutsack!

(That’s it! That’s my seed for next year’s SeedComp: Jack Squirrel and the Curse of the Empty Nutsack.)


Meanwhile, the few body parts in my game mostly serve to describe the player character, with variations from wearing street clothes or a show costume, and to be counted which was purely for my own education.

Is any of that any use besides making x self give a shorter reply while still having a fully defined look for the player character? Not right now, but surely there can be.

No cojones though. But after all this I might put it in just because you would expect it.

Is cojones like a special type of screwdriver the other NPC has that I need to go on a quest to obtain?


You’ve just reminded me of one of my favorite old-time cartoons. In Egg Collector, Sniffles the Mouse is reading a book about owls; it mentions that owls eat rodents, but Sniffles has no idea what that word means! He thinks “rodents” are a kind of flower! (Hmmm. Maybe they are “rodent-endrons”…???) :open_mouth:


That’s not cojones, that’s a ouroboros. I thought we were talking about that thing that hangs down from the roof of your mouth.

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as miltary historian, my take on this nonsense is that should be interesting an IF set in Bastogne, December 1944, with Gen. McAuliffe as PC or major NPC…

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.

What did you just have me read, with my own two eyes…?