Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Kingdom of Loathing The Home Game 4: And Now, Something Else Entirely

Well, Simon Christiansen's IF Comp entry Trapped In Time was a prime contender for conversion to this blog if I ever saw one (you may recall, I alluded to one released as a static PDF. That's the one, a clever working of time travel tropes) but the author declined my generous offer to convert it. I hope it does well in the contest, though I know its labour-intensive format will throw would-be supporters from the trail. Alas, alack, oh well. But since it's been a while, it's definitely time for a new gamebook-conversion post. I've revisited the well of the Kingdom of Loathing gamebook 'zines they use to advertise their awesome MMORPG at the San Diego Comic-Con. They're not making these any more, but I haven't quite run out of them in my back catalogue; distributed as linkless PDFs, they're relatively easy to spring the text from and manually link up. After these, every conversion starts relying on a lot more manual transcription (or discoveries in the new state of the art in freeware OCR software.)

This particular volume is a pastiche of Dungeons & Dragons cliches. It doesn't have a great deal to do with the Kingdom of Loathing setting, but it maintains the same sense of humour and still features the same stickman illustrations as garnered the first set of Game of 1000 Blank White Cards materials I ever saw! Speaking of which, this weekend I'm headed to Portland, Oregon, where I presented the Game of 1000 Blank White Cards as payback for having introduced Eat Poop You Cat. Great games all; both probably better than this gamebook, but this offers more solitaire value.

An Adventurer Is You!
Kingdom of Loathing
The Home Game* version of
*Or, more likely, The While You're Standing In Some Line At Comic-Con Game. We basically had that discussion before, though.
And Now, Something Else Entirely
Now with totally readable font-size!
(In case you left your magnifying glass at home.)


You scratch idly at where your new leather armor chafes, then, with your hand on the hilt of your father's worn old longsword, you push open the door to the village tavern.

The inside is dimly lit, and (being midafternoon) mostly empty—the local farmers are still doing their chores, you guess. Apart from the bartender, only one person is in here—a man in a dark, hooded robe, sitting in a shadowy corner of the room.

. . .

"Oh, you've heard of Amalgamated Squid?" you say.

"Not really. What kind of music do they play?"

"They're kind of a college-radio band," you reply.

"What, like Hootie and the Blowfish? I love them!"

. . .

Your torch casts flickering shadows on the ancient stone walls, making everything nicely atmospheric. You carefully measure the hallway, finding it to be exactly ten feet wide and fifty feet long, where it stops at a heavy wooden door.
. . .

You reach up as high as you can and wedge your hedge-trimmers between the wall and the ceiling. This slows its movement somewhat, so you start pounding on the door, attempting to break it down. Then, with a sudden flash of insight, you realize that the door was designed to open inwards and, bracing your feet on the doorframe and pulling as thought your life depended on it (which it obviously does), you manage to wrench the door open just before it is blocked by the falling ceiling, which smashes the door into a rain of splinters as you dive into the next room.

I guess picking the silly option at the general store worked out pretty well for you after all.

. . .

Nah, just kidding.

. . .

As you make your way through the forest, you are interrupted by a howling that sounds uncomfortably nearby. The underbrush parts, revealing three gray wolves who stalk slowly toward you, baring their fangs and growling menacingly. It's a sight that would look pretty awesome on a tshirt, if only it weren't still late afternoon, and the moon was out.

Fortunately for you, they appear to be the standard sort of wolves, not dire wolves ("dire" in this context meaning "bigger than usual"). Interestingly, the dire wolf was a real creature, before they went extinct... the dire rat and dire badger, not so much.


  • If you win, return to the section you were at when the random encounter happened.
  • If you lose, go to section 106.
. . .

You shrug on your Amalgamated Squid T-shirt and head to school.

Between classes, you find yourself staring at a beautiful girl with a bitchin' henna tattoo and a nose piercing. "Hey, nice shirt," she says.

. . .

You pass through the door and find yourself in a shadowy stone hallway. It measures ten feet wide by twenty feet long, at which point it turns left end extends for a further forty feet. You see a door at the end of it, but before you reach it, something tells you that a trap is nearby.

The thing that tells you is basically me being forced to ask you if you happen to be carrying a ten-foot pole with you. Yeah, it's kind of a giveaway.

. . .

You sheathe your sword and look around the room. It is 30' square, with unadorned stone walls. The rear wall of the room has two exits: the one on the left is a simple archway in the wall, but it appears to contain some sort of odd force-field that glimmers and distorts the light, rippling gently like a pool of water, but slower. The exit on the right is carved to look like the face of a bearded devil or possibly a satyr. It is bright green, and its mouth is open in a wide O, forming the entrance to a tunnel. The tunnel itself, though, is utterly, impenetrably black.

Neither of these two "doors" is particularly appealing.

. . .

You sit down next to a girl who looks approachably attractive (and attractively approachable). When she says "hello," though, you're so nervous that you empty your beer cup in one big gulp. Well, at least it was the beer cup you emptied, and not your bladder.

"This is a great party, huh?" she says. You nod, because you're afraid if you open your mouth, you'll throw up.

. . .

You shake the little crystal box, and the ring rattles around inside it.

At this point, you really aren't feeling brave enough to try it on, nor to open either of the other two chests.

That leaves you with the question of how to get out of here — the only door in this room is the one you came through, and you don't have any way to cross the pit.

Looks like it's time to (drumroll)... CHECK FOR SECRET DOORS!

. . .

"All right, fine," you sigh. "Keep your pie. What's behind the doors?"

"Hallways," the orc shrugs. "I didn't go exploring; I figured it was best for me to not leave my post. And anyway there's bound to be traps and all, and I wasn't in the mood to go risking my life, you know?"

"Yeah. Okay, well, thanks."

"Sure. Good luck, man."

. . .

You poke around in the thorny bushes and dense shrubbery for ten minutes, but don't find anything unusual. Time to make another Search check; flip your coins again.

. . .

You enter a 30' x 30' room which contains three large chests. Don't get too excited about that yet, though, because it also contains a wandering monster.

So, go ahead and roll on the wandering monster table in the back of the book, and come back here when you're done with all that.


Ready? Hope the wandering monster thing went okay for you.

. . .

You cautiously make your way down the hall toward the door and find it to be (not unexpectedly) locked.

Somewhat more unexpected is the fact that, when you tried the knob, a stone wall crashed down behind you, sealing off the hallway. Engraved on the wall is the statement: HA HA GOT YOU YOU BASTARD.

The ceiling begins to slowly grind down toward you in classic "pancake trap" fashion.

. . .

You feel a little vomit rise into your throat at the thought of interacting with the opposite sex. You turn and flee, finish out your school day, and waste most of the evening playing a Multi-User Dungeon on your dial-up modem connection. As you fall asleep, you hope you'll dream about being an adventurer in a dungeon again.

. . .

Hey, wow — you just barely survived! Nice going! I would offer you a high-five, but the impact might be enough to knock you unconscious.

. . .

At the end of the hallway, you come to a stout wooden door. I feel obliged to be a little more descriptive than that, but... well, it's a door. Made of wood. It probably has bronze or iron fittings; I'll go with iron, I guess.

You put your ear to it and listen carefully, hoping to get a clue as to what's on the other side; you hear a non-specific sort of murmur that indicates a random encounter. Since our random encounter system doesn't provide for the possibility of surprise, it doesn't really matter if you try to sneak in quietly or charge in shouting.

. . .

You press your ear against the slight gap between the door and the wall, and listen intently. You hear a low muttering sound, like someone talking... if you concentrate, you can just barely make it out:

"...hope an adventurer shows up soon. How long have I been sitting in this stupid room, anyway? Man, I knew I should've taken that call center job, but nooo, be a dungeon encounter, they said, it's like money for nothing, they said. Stupid temp agency, they might've at least warned me to bring a magazine..."

. . .

Okay, so we wrote this whole big long third act where you wake up in a cell at the top of the Wizard's tower (pictured), and have to escape and deal with all kinds of awesome diabolical traps and crazy monsters and stuff.

Unfortunately, we ran out of space in the book, so we're gonna have to end with a kind of a cliffhanger.

Seriously. This isn't some kind of cop-out. We really did write it, and we're going to use it in next year's exclusive promotional San Diego Comic Con Choose-Your-Own-Adventure.

I know what you're saying. You're saying, "But I don't want to wait a year to find out what happens." But chin up, tiger — you'll live. You just need to find something with which to occupy your time.

Hey, I've got an idea. How about if you spend the next year playing The Kingdom of Loathing, our super-groovy web-based multiplayer role-playing game? You can find it in your computer at — that's right — the game is inside the computer.

. . .

You finally sense that the moment is right: the two of you have really made a connection. You lean in to kiss her, lips tingling with anticipation.

"Hey! Get the hell away from my girlfriend!" a dude in a letterman's jacket stomps over, punches you in the mouth, and leads the girl away by the elbow. She looks back over her shoulder at you, but there's nothing you can do.

. . .

On your way out of town, you stop at the General Store. According to your map, the dungeon is a couple days away, so you purchase some beef jer — sorry, "iron rations" — as well as a couple of torches.

A display of tools catches your eye... it looks like you've got enough money left to get either a rope and grappling hook, a ten-foot pole, or a pair of hedge-trimmers.

. . .

You reach up as high as you can and wedge your sword between the wall and the ceiling. This slows its movement somewhat, so you start pounding on the door, attempting to break it down. Then, with a sudden flash of insight, you realize that the door was designed to open inwards and, bracing your feet on the doorframe and pulling as thought your life depended on it (which it obviously does), you manage to wrench the door open just before it is blocked by the falling ceiling, which smashes the door into a rain of splinters as you dive into the next room.

. . .

Your trip through the forest is interrupted by a small number of kobolds, who jump out of the bushes at you, waving little spears. A kobold if you're not familiar with them, is a small yappy dog-lizard-man that occupies the lowest rung on the ladder of common humanoid monsters (kobold - goblin - orc - gnoll - ogre). Their major purpose is to be easily and offhandedly crushed, giving players a chance to warm up their dice at the beginning of the game session.


  • If you win, return to the section you were at when the random encounter happened.
  • If you lose, go to section 106.
. . .

Your refusal to cheat, even in the face of an obstacle as pointless as this one, is truly admirable. You search for another ten minutes, finding nothing. Flip your coins again.

. . .

A female voice penetrates the silent darkness around you. "Honey . . . Honey, get up! You'll be late for school!" You pry your eyes open and see you're in your own bedroom in the quaint, quiet, backwards hick town of Prescott, Arizona.

"Wow," you mumble, still groggy, "I had this crazy dream about a wizard and a quest..."

Your mom gives you a warm smile (not as warm as the smiles she gives me, though). "Well, you're safe and sound now, back in good old 1995. Get dressed."

You crawl out of bed and survey your closet.

. . .

"Actually," you say, "I've never understood the need to alter one's perception of reality to have a good time. Drugs and alcohol always seemed like crutches for those who aren't brave enough to simply be who they are."

"Get the hell out of my house," the guy working the keg says.

"Oh, what, I have to drink or I'm not one of the cool kids?"

"Nah, man. Have the beer or don't, but don't be such a prick about it. I'll give you a hint, man. When you start a sentence with 'actually' or 'technically,' you're about to say something that'll make everyone want to punch you. Now get out."

. . .

You stand triumphantly over the fallen body of your foe — that'll teach him to sit quietly in a small room for an indeterminate amount of time waiting for an adventurer to show up! Ha!

You search the room for treasure, but don't find anything other than a pie wrapped in waxed paper. It smells pretty good, so you take it along with you. (You could write that down if you like, but if at some point I should ask you "Do you have a pie?", I think you'll probably remember, right?)

As I mentioned before, there are two exits from this room:

. . .

The guy flips through his filecards again, shaking his head. "Sorry, kid — it looks like that's all I've got for a first-level. There's not a lot going on in this sleepy backwater farming community. Take it, or leave it."

. . .

"Actually," you say, turning up your nose, "Amalgamated Squid are a post-noise techno-funk band. Their brilliant use of irregular time signature and ambient traffic sounds makes their music far more intricate and substantive than the bland frat-boy stylings of Hootie and the Blowfish."

"Oh, I see," the girl says, narrowing her eyes. "Well, I guess my tastes aren't refined enough for you, then. Later, smart guy."

She spins around and, with a flip of her perfect ponytail, she's gone from your life forever. You head home and spend the rest of the evening alone, again.

. . .

Nope, you died. Actually, it was quite close — you were only knocked unconscious and bleeding, but there was no one around to heal you before you went to -10 hit points, so... yeah.

. . .

Eventually, you come to a thickly-wooded spot that seems to be roughly where your map indicates the entrance to the dungeon should be located. Despite the fact that the story can't continue until you find it, it looks like you're going to have to search the tangled undergrowth to do so.

This is accomplished with a "Search" or "Spot Hidden" check, which we will simulate by having you flip two coins.

. . .

You back up for a running start and charge toward the pit. At the last moment, you jam the end of your pole into the crack between two floor cobbles, and jump as far as possible. The pole flexes with a creak as it boosts you into the air, and you push yourself away from it with all the strength you can muster.

You hit the floor on the far side of the pit and roll, then lay on your back for a moment and gasp for breath as your ten-foot pole clatters into the pit. You made it! High-five!

. . .

You crawl through the little tunnel, scuffing your knees and banging your head on a low-hanging rock from time to time. It's generally unpleasant, and makes you start to question your choice of career. Then you reach the end of the tunnel, and push aside the flagstone in the ceiling. As you climb out into the next room, you hope that maybe things will look brighter from here on out.

That's when you get attacked by a wandering monster.

Roll on the table at the back of the book, and when you're done with whatever monster it turns out to be, come back here.


. . .

"Groovy." He hands you a rough map of the area, with your destination marked, and says, "At the end of the dungeon you should find an old crystal ball. Bring it back to me, and I'll give you 500 g.p."


"Right. You know, gold pieces."

"Not meat?"

"What? Oh – no no, this isn't a Kingdom of Loathing adventure. It's a pastiche of old Dungeons and Dragons tropes. The currency here is gold pieces."

"Ohhh. I was wondering why I hadn't met any hobos yet."

. . .

You clear your throat. "Actually," you say, "you mean we spend our days lying around watching TV. One should only use the very 'to lay' when using an object, like 'I was laying the cards on the table'."

"Wow," she says, "I totally get it! Let me try: 'because you're a know-it-all prick, I don't want to lie down with you, or lay you!'"

. . .

You hop into the green devil's mouth and are instantly and irrevocably annihilated (which is similar to being disintegrated, but there's no dust left). I guess you're not up on your classic D&D modules, because that was straight out of good old S1: Tomb of Horrors.

Don't feel bad about it, though; if you've never actually played Tomb of Horrors, you can count yourself lucky, because it was the meanest, most vicious module ever. I've been in Paranoia games with fewer casualties. Anyway, go to section 106.

. . .

You step onto the impromptu dance floor and try to remember everything (or anything) you know about dancing. You remember an episode of Mystery Science Theater 3000 that was set at a teen dance. Maybe that'll work!

. . .

Your sword makes an exciting schting! noise as you draw it from the scabbard. "So much for diplomacy," grumbles the orc, as he picks up a nasty-looking spiked club that was leaning against his chair.


. . .

Coughing and spluttering, you haul yourself to your feet while wiping bits of slime from your clothes and slapping out the places where you've caught fire. "What... what the hell?" you ask, as your vision clears, revealing a dour-looking wizard in colorful robes and a long white beard.

"My question exactly," snorts the wizard. "What the hell are you doing here, and who the hell are you?"

"I'm... I'm an adventurer," you stammer, "and I'm here to find an ancient crystal ball at the end of this dungeon."

The wizard holds up a cantaloupe-sized crystal ball, which glows softly in the dim light. "You mean this one? Looks like you're too late, I've got it already. Finders keepers."

"Hey, look, I really need that..." you say, reaching out for the sphere.

"Not on your life, Bunky," says the wizard as he clocks you in the head with his staff. Everything fades to black...

. . .

It's possible that the darts don't actually kill you — anywhere from one to eight of them might hit you, and they do d4+1 damage apiece, so that's anywhere from 2 to 40 damage you'll be taking, which is theoretically survivable for a low-level character.

  • Turn to any one of the following sections: 78, 31, 93, 17, or 64.
. . .

You wake up suddenly, the sun shining in your face, your equilibrium shot. Your eyes focus a little, and you see you're tied up and slung across the back of a horse being ridden by a wizard. The wizard's carrying a crystal ball.

He hears you fidgeting against your bonds and turns around. "Huh. Looks like I didn't hit you hard enough," he says, and cracks you over the head with the ball, knocking you unconscious again.

. . .

You step up to the bar and order a mug of ale. The bartender looks at you appraisingly.

"What level are you?"

"What? Uh... first, I guess."

"Sorry kid, we don't serve booze to minors. Come back when you've got some orcs under your belt." He pauses, then looks up from the mug he's polishing. "...That sounded a bit dirtier than I intended, actually."

. . .

Oh man. Feel that? That's what it feels like when an orc crushes your skull with a big spiky club. Yeah, it doesn't feel particularly good.

. . .

You stand on the edge of the dance floor and bob your head almost imperceptibly. A jock walks by you, and says, "Hey, man." He interprets your head-bob as a non-commital nod, and nods back. You feel a warm glow suffuse you — that's the first satisfying social interaction you've had with a jock in your entire high school career. "You should grab a beer, man," the jock says.

. . .

The lid of the wooden chest creaks open. You have just enough time to see that there's nothing inside before there's a bright flash of light and a gigantic skeleton — easily nine feet tall and wielding two huge scimitars — appears before you. It's wearing a little party hat that says "Surprise!", which I guess is someone's idea of a joke.

There is frankly no point in running combat against this monster, even if the combat in this book weren't total nonsense — it kills the hell out of you. Sorry!

. . .

"Only 500 meat — I mean, g.p.? That doesn't sound like very much."

"It's way more cash than anyone else has around here," the man comments dryly. "Kid, you're only first level. The real money comes much later. Anyway, chances are that the dungeon will have more treasure in it than the trinket I'm asking you to fetch. Especially if you're gonna be one of those guys who takes the brass candleabras and everything else that isn't nailed down."

"Fair enough, I guess."

. . .

In this room you encounter a large rooster with a lizard's tail, which you identify (despite this being your first adventure ever and never having seen or even heard of one before) as a cockatrice.

This is a bad thing, but it could be worse — D&D cockatrices only turn you into stone if they bite you. If this were Nethack, it could do it just by sneezing at you, or possibly even just looking at you funny. God help you if you were to actually pick it up and then fall down the stairs.


  • If you win, return to the section you were at when the random encounter happened.
  • If you lose, you get stoned. Har, har. Go to section 106.
. . .

"Sure, I'll take a beer," you say. You take a few tentative sips of the stuff. It tastes terrible, but you can feel yourself relax a little bit.

. . .

This section is a moment of silence for your trusty ten-foot pole, which saved your life twice before being lost to the horrors of the dungeon.

Pole, we hardly knew ye.

. . .

"All right," you say, "I'm in. I just bring you the crystal ball thingy? No problem. Anything I should know about this place? Traps? Monsters?"

"Almost certainly, and yes of course."

"...A little more info would be nice."

"Sorry kid, no spoilers from me. You're an adventurer now; surprises are your stock and trade."

The man waves as you leave the tavern.

. . .

You dive into the next room, feeling pretty clever about how you got out of that trap. The feeling quickly fades, however, due to the fact that there's a wandering monster in this room, and you no longer have a weapon to fight it with.

You could turn to the Wandering Monster Table in the back of the book and see what monster it is, if you like... but it kills you, so it doesn't really matter.

. . .

"Yeah, it's really cute," you say. "It's from a Japanese cartoon I... er, my kid brother watches. It's actually pretty good; you should check it out sometime!"

"Maybe you can bring the VHS to the party tonight," she says, and scribbles an address on your Trapper Keeper.

. . .

You back up for a running start, and ram your shoulder into the heavy wooden door with a roar of fury, slamming it open with a powerful crash! The small room beyond (which you instinctively note to be exactly ten feet square with another door on each of the left and right walls) contains a rather surprised-looking orc.

"Dude!" he says, "it wasn't locked or anything."

. . .

The lid of the chest creaks open, and unexpectedly, a swarm of terrible little green snakes pour out of it, biting you all over and filling you with poison until you start to swell up like some kind of horrible meat zeppelin. ("Unexpectedly," in this context, refers to the fact that it was snakes in particular; you were probably totally expecting that something would jump out and kill you.) You have just one chance: did you acquire the vial of antivenom?

. . .

You smile, nod, and jump off the couch and run to the bathroom, where you lock the door and stay until the party's over. It's not all bad, though: you do find an old joke book and learn some pretty funny jokes.

You gain 37 experience points.

. . .

This is the point in the adventure where we pad things out a bit by including a random encounter—the first of several, probably. After all, we could just say, "Two or three days pass and you find yourself at the dungeon entrance," but that would be terribly lame from a storytelling perspective. Remember, kids: storytelling = filler.

Oh, sorry, did I say "filler?" What I meant, of course, was "dramatic encounters to fuel role-playing and possibly provide plot hooks to later stories."

Anyway, put your finger on this section, and flip to the back of the book, where you'll find a "Wandering Monster Table." Follow the instructions to choose a "Wilderness Encounter," and then come back here when you've finished. (If a combat is involved, you'll find the instructions for that on the back cover of the book.) I'll wait here till you get back...

Done? Everything come out all right? Great! Now you know what to do if the text says "roll for a wandering monster" in the future. Oh, don't look so surprised, of course you're going to have to go through that again. You saw that there were two charts back there, right?

. . .

"Hey, is that a Hamster Inflator Yuki backpack?" you ask.

The girl shrugs and rolls her eyes. "I don't know. I got it at Hot Topic. Isn't it soooo cute?"

. . .

This room is strewn with human skeletons, possibly the remains of previous adventurers. Not being a dummy, you give odds of 99 out of 100 that they come to life and attack you as soon as you get to the center to the room, and this is of course what happens.

Fortunately, there's only a handful of them, and skeletons aren't exactly tough. They take less damage from non-bludgeoning weapons, but as previously mentioned your sword is pretty dull, so I'll give you a pass on that.


  • If you win, return to the section you were at when the random encounter happened.
  • If you lose, go to section 106.
. . .

As I said, this room contains three large chests. They're about four feet across by two feet wide, and three feet tall. The first one appears to be made out of gold, the second is made from some silvery sort of metal, and the last is strong oak banded with bronze. None of the three appear to have a lock, which makes you wish you still had your ten-foot pole.

I miss that ten-foot pole. :(

. . .

As you make your way down the corridor, you cautiously tap the floor ahead of you with your ten-foot pole: Tap tap tap. Tap tap tap. Tap tap tonk.

Tonk. Huh, that's weird.

You poke at that section of the floor a bit more and soon find a pressure-plate that causes a pit to drop open across the full width of the hallway. You cautiously peek over the edge, and find it to be very deep, and very pointy at the bottom. Man, good thing you had that ten-foot pole, eh?

The question now is, how are you going to get across? You could probably pole-vault over, but you would lose your pole in the process, and wouldn't be able to get back this way. If this passage should turnout to be a dead-end, you'd be stuck... but surely I wouldn't be that mean, right? Right?

Another option would be to go back to the orc's room and take the other passage instead.

. . .

"A stick."

"Correct," the sphinx grumbles. "You may pass."

"That's a terrible riddle," you say.

"Well, you caught me off-guard. Go away."

"You've been sitting here waiting for someone to come along so you could ask them a riddle, but you did''t have one ready? No way. You were going to ask me the four legs/two legs/three legs one, weren't you?"

"No, I wasn't. Go away before I eat you."

  • Return to the section you were at when the random encounter happened.
. . .

"Die, evil monster!" you shout, drawing your father's sword from its scabbard and clubbing the startled orc in the head with it before he can react. (I say "clubbing" because, well, it's an old sword and dull to the point where you wouldn't trust it to slice a tomato. Still, it's heavy and metal and seems to do okay at the basic task you require for it, i.e. hitting things.)

The orc crashes to the ground with a scream. He appears to be dead, but you spend a few minutes jumping up and down on him just to make sure. You then carefully search the room, but don't find any treasure except for a pretty tasty-looking pie. You can write that down on your inventory list, if you're bothering to keep one. As I mentioned before, there are two exits from this room:

. . .

Nope, you died. You might be interested to know, though, that you got hit by all eight darts, and took nearly full damage from them, so at least you died spectacularly. If damage taken in D&D corresponded to visual effect, those little darts would have totally exploded you.

. . .

You join the keg line, since it's the least terrifying of the party options that presented themselves. You smile and nod manically at everyone around you until someone offers you a plastic cup full of that yellowish, weird-smelling swill you've heard about, but never actually tried.

. . .

You hold up your ten-foot pole, and wait nervously for the ceiling to drop to its level. When it does, the ceiling slows with a creeeak, visibly bending the pole, but coming to a halt.


...And then the pole snaps in half and the ceiling smashes violently to the ground. Upon which you were standing.

. . .

You open the door and step into a stone hallway, which measures ten feet wide and twenty feet long, at which point it turns right and continues another forty feet to a door.

Past the turn, the flagstones have been engraved with a cryptic message:


Well that's cheerful.

. . .

"Well, that's just typical of you gaijin, to buy something from a chain store because it's 'cute.' I'll bet you didn't know that Hamster Inflator Yuki is the third most popular anime in Japan, and that individual issues of its manga have sold more copies than The Bridges of Madison County," you say.

"Whatever, nerd," she says. "I just thought it was cute." She turns around and walks away, leaving you to sadly wave goodbye to the inflated hamster on her back. You go home, alone, and spend the rest of the night on the computer, alone.

. . .

The hooded man looks up at you as you approach. "Ah, finally, an adventurer! I was beginning to think the guild sent me to this backwater as punishment."


"The Shadowy Figures in the Corners of Bars Union." He shows you his membership card. "We've been providing quests to young adventurers such as yourself since time out of mind."

. . .

You step into the dance throng and start swiveling your hips and arms. You're dancing so well that the crowd thins out and stands in a wide circle around you to watch you strut your stuff!

With an almost audible ego crash, you realize they're keeping their distance because your arrhythmically flailing limbs are a danger to yourself and others. You hang your head and slink off of the dance floor before you hurt something worse than your pride.

. . .

You screw your courage to the sticking place, ponder for a minute what a weird expression that is, and head into the party. It's your typical mid-'90s teenage bacchanal: a keg of beer, various bottles of whatever kids could steal from their parents, people making out, vomiting, and dancing (sometimes all three at once).

. . .

Ah, the classic ten-foot pole, useful for poking things from a long way away when you don't want to touch them with your hands. No adventurer worth his salt would leave town without one, although the obvious difficulties inherent in actually carrying a ten-foot-long wooden pole around with you everywhere are generally ignored.

. . .

Bad luck — looks like you didn't find any secret doors. Fortunately, you can try as many times as you like.

. . .

No? Ooh, that kind of sucks then, because you missed out on detecting the pit trap that just opened up beneath you. Well, I mean, you've detected it now, but it would have been more helpful to have done so before you were actually standing on top of it.

I would ask if you have the grappling hook and rope, to climb out of the pit with, but it turns out not to matter very much, because the bottom of the pit is covered with spikes — hollow spikes that shoot smaller spikes out of them, which are themselves coated with poison.

. . .

You try to psyche yourself up for the party, but you just can't find the heart, the brain, or the nerve. "I bet there won't be anyone there I can really talk to, anyway," you tell yourself. "They're probably all a bunch of MTV-watching sheeple. And those grapes are totally sour."

. . .

You flip open the lid of the slivery chest, and dive back out of the way. Several long moments pass with nothing happening, so you creep forward and peek into the chest. It appears to contain only a small cut-crystal box about the size of a pack of cigarettes; through the transparent lid, you can see a small silver ring.

You reach out tremblingly and poke the box with one finger, then jump back to safety again. Nothing happens.

Feeling a little more sure of yourself, you reach into the chest and take the crystal box. This is, of course, when a handful of razor-sharp steel darts shoot out of the bottom of the chest at you.


You have encountered a sphinx. In case you've never read any fantasy or mythology ever, a sphinx is a creature with the upper torso and head of a man, the lower body of a lion, and the paws that refreshes.

"Greetings, adventurer," it says. "If you can guess the answer to my riddle, I will allow you to pass."

"Is it 'a man'?" you ask.

"What? I haven't even asked the question yet."

"No, but I figured there was a pretty good chance it would be the old 'What walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening' one."

The sphinx frowns and gives you a shifty look. "No, I... no. Certainly not. That old chestnut? Pshaw."

"All right, what's the riddle then?"

"I um... give me a second..." The sphinx drums its claws on the floor and furrows its brow in thought.

"That was the question you were going to ask, wasn't it?"

"No. Shut up." The creature sighs. "All right, um... what's brown and sticky?"

  • To answer the sphinx’s riddle, add up the numerical values of the letters in your answer (A=1, Z=26; omit extra words like 'a' or 'an') and turn to that section of the book. If the section you get makes sense, keep reading from there.
  • Otherwise, the sphinx eats you and you go to section 106.
  • If you totally can’t figure the riddle out, or if you know the answer but don't feel like doing any math right now, you can cheat by going to section 98.
. . .

Nope, you died.

. . .

"So," you say, "I guess we fight now?"
The orc gives you a cautious look.
"Well, yeah, that's the intention I suppose, but in all honesty I'm not sure that it's really necessary, I mean I'm perfectly willing to let you pass..."
"Are you guarding any treasure?"
"No, just these two doors. Well, and my lunch, I guess, but that doesn't really count..."
"What is it?"
"A pie."
"Hmm," you say. "I am in fact hungry for pie. Is it a tasty pie?"
"Well, my buddy Monte baked it, and he's quite a good cook, so yeah, chances are that... hey! Are you seriously considering killing me just to get my lunch?"
"Well, you are an orc, after all," you say. "Orcs are inherently evil."
"Sure," he replies, "but you don't have to be a dick about it!"
. . .

You still don't trust your digestive tract to keep running the proper direction, so you smile and nod at the girl. "You know," she says, "sometimes I think all of these people are just total MTV-watching sheeple. Like, we all just waste our days laying around watching TV."

. . .

You carefully open the door and peek through. The small (10' square) room contains a door on each of the left and right walls, as well as a rather bored-looking orc, who gives you a little wave. So much for the element of surprise.

. . .

Are you sure? Unless you're just being contrary, I advise you to go back to section 22 and buy something. I can't force you, though.

Heck, you're probably going to cheat and assume you've got any equipment I happen to ask for later, aren't you?

. . .

Well, you didn't make it all the way through the adventure, but you did get to defeat an orc and drink a virtual beer! You should definitely check out the Kingdom of Loathing at, where there are several varieties of virtual booze to drink, and hundreds of fantasy monsters to slay! Like this pamphlet, it's totally free. Unlike this pamphlet, it's actually a game.

. . .

Congratulations! While you didn't actually win this adventure, you did defeat an orc, drink a virtual beer, and you almost had a complete and satisfying human interaction.

You can practice all of those skills at It's a free, multi-player online game with plenty of monsters to fight, drinks to drink, and a fantastic community to chat with. Sorry, 'with which to chat.' Although if we learned anything from this whole experience, it's that people never thank you for correcting their grammar. Or their grampa.

. . .

You can't find the girl who invited you to the party, so you look around for another kindred spirit. You see a girl wearing a shirt with the Batman logo on it. That seems promising (even if the logo is bright pink), so you strike up a conversation. It starts off okay, but after a half hour of you cataloguing the continuity errors between the comic book and the movie — "It is absolutely crucial to the Batman saga that the Joker has no name, and was certainly not Joe Chill, who killed Batman's parents" — you find yourself talking to empty space. Oh, well. Now what?
. . .

You plunk down the last of your money and buy a grappling hook and a sturdy coil of hemp rope. It's not as fancy as the silk rope that the rich adventurers buy, but it should be perfectly serviceable for your first time out.

And hey, if you get bored, you can always just smoke it.

Haha, just kidding, we don't use direct drug references, as a general rule. Anyway, it's the wrong kind of hemp, and that totally wouldn't work.

. . .

Well, it appears that human interaction isn't your strong suit. May we humbly suggest that you play The Kingdom of Loathing? It's full of all the orcs, dwarves, and elves that you like, with the strong sense of disaffected irony you crave. Plus, it's a multi-player game with an awesome community, so you'll have plenty of opportunities to practice your people skills! Check it out at It's free!

. . .

You find an upstairs window that opens onto the roof, and the two of you lie down and talk while you stargaze. As the sky starts to grey with the approaching dawn, the moment is finally perfect: you turn to her and share a deep, satisfying kiss. You hold her tightly and drift off to sleep.

. . .

Let's step away from the pleasant fiction for a moment and get real, okay? We here at Gamers Against Youth Wantonly Abusing Alcoholic Drinks wish to remind you that while a sip or two of beer won't kill you, and might help you adjust to new social situations, that alcohol is a dangerous drug when used to excess. Make sure that your one or two beers doesn't turn into eight or nine and a vodka shot, because that can lead to jackassery, vomiting, clumsiness, and death. So don't drink to excess, and don't drink and drive, and remember to brush your teeth before bed.

If you use alcohol responsibly, you too can be a total GAYWAAD.

. . .

Ha ha ha, fooled you. There isn't any vial of antivenom in this book.

Yes, I'm a douchebag, but at least I'm not a liar, liar.

. . .

There is a soft plorp sound as you step into the shimmering field, which envelops you like transparent jelly. Exactly like that, in fact, because you have just walked into the side of a gelatinous cube. If you weren't completely paralyzed, you might be inclined to kick your own ass.

Fortunately, you are saved from being slowly digested over a long period of time when someone explodes the gelatinous cube with a fireball. Unfortunately, someone explodes the gelatinous cube you are inside with a fireball.

. . .

Alerted by loud crashing and roaring sounds, you dive into some bushes and hide. Just in time, too, as an angry-looking owlbear bursts into the clearing. This creature is basically a nine- or ten-foot tall bear with the head of an owl. Thus, it has the strength and ferocity of a bear, and the... uh... something of an owl. You might guess "wisdom", but they're not actually smarter than the average bear. Are owls like constantly pissed-off? Because that would fit.

It's said that owlbears were created by wizards messing around with animal experimentation, which makes sense, because wizards often get funny notions about what constitutes a "good idea."

This particular owlbear has rumbled off in the other direction, and that's good, because it would surely smash you into paste if you tried to fight it, and it would be cruel of me to kill you off so early into the book.

  • Return to the section you were at when the random encounter happened.
. . .

Nope, you died.

. . .

You have encountered one of the most terrifying and awesome (in both senses of the word) monsters in the D&D universe. Unfortunately, it's so famous that Wizards of the Coast considers it to be part of their "Product Identity" and holds strict copyright over it, so I'm not allowed to explicitly describe it here. I bet if we play "20 Questions" you can guess it, though.

Question 1: "Is it round?" Yes.
Question 2: "Does it have a lot of eyes?" Yes.
Question 3: "Does it kill the hell out of me?"
Hey, congratulations, you only needed three questions!

. . .

You carefully search the floor behind the chests, and find a flagstone that seems a little loose. Levering it out of the floor with your sword, you reveal a narrow crawlspace that winds away into the darkness. It doesn't look very pleasant in there, but honestly you haven't got much in the way of alternatives at the moment.

. . .

Hedge trimmers? Seriously? That's hardly a standard piece of adventuring kit.

Oh, I get it — you're assuming that the most absurd and obviously jokey piece of available equipment is probably the one you're most likely to need, considering the perverse sense of humor that's already apparent in this book.

What you fail to take into account is the fact that I'm totally making this up as I go along. Still, I hope it works out for you.

. . .

You swallow your snobbery and try not to choke on it. "Well, Hootie's great, but these guys are a little edgier, weirder, maybe. You've got to hear them if you haven't."

The girl smiles. "Well," she says, "maybe you can bring the CD to the party tonight." She scribbles an address on your Trapper Keeper and bounces away.

. . .

The answer is "a stick", and those letters add up to 62, you dirty cheater.

. . .

"Er, hello," you say.

"Hi. Man, am I glad to see you, it's boring as hell in here. Hang on a sec, I've got a script..." He pulls a sheet of paper out of his pocket and clears his throat. "Read the following dialogue to the player(s). Fie on thee, filthy human! You may seek to loot the treasures of this ancient dungeon, but even if you manage to defeat me, there are far greater traps and guardians ahead of you! Your doom is assured! Evil laugh!"

"You're... pretty new at this, huh?"

The orc sighs. "Yeah. It wasn't my first choice for a job, believe me. But the market is just terrible right now."

. . .

You desperately ram your shoulder against the stout wooden door over and over, but it shows little sign of weakening. By the time you notice that it was designed to open inward, the ceiling has dropped low enough to block its movement. Squish.

. . .

You dive into the next room, which happens to contain a wandering monster. Fortunately, it turns out to be a reasonably polite one, which allows you to pick yourself up and catch your breath before attacking you. When you're ready, turn to the Wandering Monster Table at the back of the book, and then come back here when you've resolved the encounter. ... Ready? Okay, now go to section 9.

. . .

Success! You clear away some bushes and moss, uncovering an ancient stone slab, which is engraved with what must logically be somewhat less ancient (but still pretty old) runes. You can't read them, but to be perfectly frank, it doesn't really matter what they say, does it? I mean, chances are it's some variation on "KEEP OUT," and we both know that's not gonna happen.

After a brief struggle, you manage to shove the slab far enough to one side to allow you to squeeze through. (I could have made you flip more coins for a strength check, but I'm not a complete bastard.) Lighting a torch, you make your way cautiously down a dusty stone staircase to section 3.

. . .

You nod sympathetically, and keep your fool mouth shut. You keep quiet and keep listening until you can safely make a comment without criticizing the girl's taste in popular culture or correcting her grammar. All that listening means that when you do finally say something, it's on a topic that interests both of you, so the conversation continues.

. . .

You put on your wizard shirt and head to school. Between classes, you find yourself staring at a beautiful girl with a backpack modeled after an adorable Japanese cartoon character.

. . .

The man pulls out a small box of filing cards. "Let's see now... you're first level?"


"That's what I thought. Standard-issue leather armor and an old sword, probably inherited from a relative. What have I got for a first level fighter?..." He flips through the cards for a moment, and pulls one out. "Here we go, a little dungeon crawl. Classic jumping-off point for a budding young adventurer. Interested?"

. . .

You've been sent to this section because something killed you.

Perhaps you were using the more difficult version of the combat system and a monster took you down, or maybe it was one of the adventure's more devious traps — and by "devious" I mean "unfair". (As you may have noticed, we're using the old-school methods of trap design in this one. Not quite up to Grimtooth's standards of evil, but since we're not really counting on you to have dice, there's no reason to give you a saving throw.)

Anyway, point is, you're dead. If you're anything like me, you've got a couple fingers stuck between the pages, marking earlier choices — now's a good time to go back to one of them. Otherwise, you'll basically just have to start over. Sorry! Another option would be to put the book aside and just check out the free online game we're advertising. It's at, and I promise that it's much, much harder to die there.

. . .

. . .

Lars stood by the window, clothed only in the moonlight. Helga admired the way his supple buttocks flexed when he shifted his weight from foot to foot. "What is it, my soul twin?" she asked.

Lars stared at the scene before him. He was a man of few words at the best of times — he was a man of action, of deed, of sword and sinew, blood and bone. The vast passion play in the sky outside the window swept what few words he had from his mighty brain, and it was an eternity before he responded.

"I see a great wolf blotting out the sun," he said. "I see a snake eating the moon. Giants — no, not giants, far larger than giants—gods stride across the land, decimating forests with a single sword stroke, boiling the seas with a glance, stabbing their lances deep into the heart of Grothmir, the Earth-Mother, herself. In the distance, I hear the labor pangs of Hreldamar, the Dark Mother, and soon her son will be unleashed upon us." Lars turned from the window, concealing his taut buttocks but revealing further mysteries. "It is the Drakmaglinoth, Helga. The End of All Worlds."

"Then we have little time remaining," Helga said. "Come back to bed with us."

"Yes," Olga added, tracing the line where the steel of her biomechanical leg met the smooth flesh of her thigh, "come back to bed."

. . .

Deciding you're not going to find what you're looking for here, you strike off on your own, and eventually find yourself embroiled in the adventure of a lifetime!

It isn't the one we actually wrote, though. But hey, you've clearly got things to do, people to see. Why not add to your workload by doing some things and seeing some people in the Kindom of Loathing, our web-based multiplayer role-playing game available online at WANDERING MONSTER TABLES

Instructions: Roll 2d6. Considering where you got this book, I will be somewhat surprised if you don't know what that means, but just in case: Roll two six-sided dice (the regular cube-shaped ones). If you don't have any handy, there are a multitude of 99¢ iPhone apps that will do it for you—isn't technology great? Failing that, ask two people standing near you to each think of a number from one to six. They will give you funny looks, but you should be used to that by now.

Anyway, once that's done, look up the total on the appropriate chart below, and turn to the section indicated. The rules for combat are in a section labelled "COMBAT", which should be around here somewhere. Maybe on the next page.

Dungeon Encounters:

2-4: Section 59
5: Section 77
6: Section 48
7: Section 94
8: Section 48
9: Section 77
10-12: Section 59

Wilderness Encounters:

2-5: Section 6
6-8: Section 24
9-12: Section 92


Those of you who played last year's Kingdom of Loathing Comic-Con Adventure Gamebook ("Episode 3: Past as Prologue

") may wish to use the Classic combat rules from that, which are fully compatible here. (Consider all combats in this book to be of regular difficulty, except for the Emo Unicorn and Banshee Cheerleader Pyramid (who are "hard") and the Literary Criticism Golem (which is "stupid hard").

If you don't have that combat system memorized and don't have a copy of the book handy, or if you wish to try our new ultra-streamlined Combat System 2.0 instead, then read on!

Here's how it works:

1) When a section of the game text says "COMBAT!", make note of which section of the book you are currently on (so that you can find your place again after combat is over).
2) Close your eyes, flip to a random page of the book, and poke the book with your finger or the eraser end of a pencil.
3) Take the number of the section that your finger/pencil landed on, and divide it by five, rounding up.
4) Return to the section of the book you were at when you entered combat. There should be two options at the bottom of the section: one for which section to turn to if you lose, and one for which section to turn to if you win.
5) Turn to the section listed on the "if you win" choice, and continue reading.

Some people feel that this system is too easy, and does not make the game challenging enough. If you are of this opinion, you may optionally choose to take the "if you lose" choice instead. This will make the game much more difficult, and is recommended only for the hardcore elite.

Hey! If you enjoyed this book (even with all our shameless self promotion), why not try our advertising-free, subscription-free, totally free online game? It's free!

It's not actually very much like this book, except that it's got a lot of funny things to read in it, and this book was written by the guys who write for the game.

Also the game is a whole lot longer than the book, and has a lot more of our beautiful hand-crafted images in it. The really important pictures even move a little bit!


Plus, it's got various numbers that you can make bigger, and a combat system that actually makes sense. It even has PvP, kinda! For visiting us at Comic-Con, you can even get a Comic-Con Exclusive in-game item! It's free! Just like the game!

Writing: Nathan "Riff" Conner and Josh "Mr. Skullhead" Nite
Writing and Artwork: Zack "Jick" Johnson
All content copyright © 2009, Asymmetric Publications, LLC
If you missed previous years' booklets, you can get them at:

Sunday, September 29, 2013

IF Competition 2013

The 19th annual Interactive Fiction competition has just opened and this is really the year CYOA-style storygames have flooded in, presumably following Porpentine's distinguished placing last year for Howling Dogs. There are over a dozen of them (plus more-traditional-for-this-comp text-parser adventures, plus a couple of real outliers like a StoryNexus game, for the Fallen London fans.) Who knows, some of them that don't automate their own play (like the PDF (!) submission) may end up converted for web play someday as was done with Pray for Your Enemies. In the meantime, you can check them out (congregated near the bottom, desigated "Web-based games") at

(Also discovered while checking them out: free hosting for Twine games over here!)

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Interactive song-suite: debut postmortem.

First off: plenty of exciting news all around. Chris Klimas has come out of hiding and delivered a talk on his neglected creation, Twine. Choice of Games is on a roll, delivering the conclusion of their Choice of Romance trilogy, part 2 of Choice of the Vampire, and a follow-up to Heroes Rise hot off the presses last Friday. Just when I'd finally completed my exhaustive documentation over at Mobygames of all known works released written in their ChoiceScript language, GameFly majorly borked an unwanted, unnecessary site redesign and all my studious scholarship there, including much on hyperfiction and storygames, has been thrown into jeopardy. Fortunately, this obscure site is safe: its only risk factor is the bottleneck of my free time.

Now, as promised, pledged and threatened, I did debut a performance of an allegedly interactive song-suite with my jug band of the damned, the Creaking Planks, at the opening night of the 6th annual Accordion Noir Festival, joining two of my grand passions in a bizarre arranged marriage. We pulled it off, in a sense, though things were hairy.

Here's a link to the performance.

If you think back to the node graph I shared in an earlier post, it may not come as much of a surprise to you to learn that I planned out too many songs, which caused a few problems: primarily, it amounted to just too much for me to write in the allotted time, despite working overtime spitting out red-hot rhyming couplets in enormous quantities like it was 1995 and I was producing lit for elite BBSes in exhange for hot fresh warez. Additionally, I was penny wise and pound foolish in initially devising a plot reason for music re-use -- and then having to adhere to the plot contortions needed to bring the story to that point rather than allowing the threads to evolve organically.

The overall performance was too long -- about 40 minutes, vs. the 25 I was shooting for. (3 minutes per song, I thought, plus one minute per for audience-choosing haranguing, applause, etc.) I felt that six-part story-chains with five choices made by the crowd would be a good, satisfying length, but due to my choice of audience selecting mechanism (in homage to its since-expired suggestor, though as I said, I did admire the way it made the audience not only participants but outright performers) every individual song became too long, because of a need to telegraph to the audience what the options were going to look like when the moment of choosing came upon them. That moment was indicated with the use of a purloined front desk handbell ("please ring for service") and when mic'd (could I have less "ding!" in the monitor, please?) it made for an excellent signal: we were worried about getting input from a confused audience, but the problem was not that they did not know when to give input or how to offer it, but that they stubbornly kept choosing dead-end choices that led to parts of the work I hadn't managed to finish writing by showtime. The Choice of Games folks talk a lot about how in order to be satisfying, choices extended in gamebooks need to be weighty, well-distinguished from each other, and generally equally interesting: a reader's curiosity could lead either way but consistent choices are made for role-playing purposes. Apparently the most interesting choices I had offered up were to songs I hadn't managed to complete the writing of. Going into the debut performance with an incomplete work was a crapshoot, but I thought it was like the practice of at least going through the motions of offering a choice, when there's a 50% chance they'll go along with the choice you hope for them to choose anyhow.

The telegraphing was needed because much of the lyrical content was abstract and bizarre (because, two days before the show, I had to take whatever I could come up with), and I therefore couldn't assume that anyone was successfully following along until they heard the ding! Even without setting up the choices, these segments were making for long songs: get enough instrumental introductions, verses, choruses, and bridges, and you have a complete song -- but a sprawling one. A Choose-Your-Own-Adventure children's book can offer you a choice half a page after it starts, after only 30 seconds of reading, but a complete song takes 4-5 minutes to present, perhaps analogous to those only-nominally CYOA works which only offer choices after pages and pages of text.

The opening choice, "would you like a happy song, or a sad one?", was a weak initial choice, but I wanted to warm up the crowd with a low-stakes easy-pitch choice, like in the opening of the outstanding interactive comic Meanwhile (which flavour of ice cream? Chocolate or Vanilla?) My impish and perverse take on things was probably a complication (entailing appearing to deliver the crowd the reverse of what they asked for -- though having a happy/sad song and a sad/happy song was handy when I had to take half of the choices off the menu at the last minute, with the remaining song being arguably happy and/or sad and suiting a choice of either option.) Also there were some admittedly stupid and silly choices (will your secret dietary supplement be eating rainbows or eating cuddles?), in the psychedelic children's literature spirit of CYOAs (You have the day off. Will you: build a robot and campaign for it to become President or the USA or teach your dog how to fly and buzz the crater of the seemingly-extinct volcano?)

I wasn't thrilled by my re-use of backing music -- eg. currently, all possibilities for "Song #3" are musically identical to each other, simply re-skinned with different lyrics, and similarly for the "Song #4"s and "Song #5"s -- but given the scope of the project, it was a necessary evil: even supposing one is able to come up with 30 distinct songs it's not fair to expect a band to pick up 30 songs in two cramming rehearsals with the knowledge that 24 of them will not be used. (Also logistically it's handy, as this way the band only needs to remember one sequence of six songs whose rhythms and chord patterns always run the same way rather than needing to thumb through a heavily tabbed manuscript to get to the next one song out of the 30 possible -- after quickly arriving at some on-stage consensus regarding just which audience selection was chosen, in this model a process which is always subject to a certain degree of tie-breaking conductorial interpretation.) My music situation was admittedly better than in my YouTube predecessor, the Haircut, which is all just one song, admittedly penned and rendered by a sassy and cool individual with neat visuals. Additionally, adhering to standardized song templates for every level in the chart ensured that songs that didn't actually have that much to express needed a great deal of time-dragging lyrical filler in order to meet their cohort's quota of verses and choruses instead of just getting to the point and moving on. In the fullness time, after words are written for all sections, I can see the musical portion of individual song nodes being customized further until they are all more or less unique. In the meantime, thanks for doubtlessly inspiring my instrumental groves go out to Portishead, Yann Tiersen's Amelie OST, Howard Shore's "Gollum's Song" from the Two Towers final credits roll, and Raghu Lokanathan's "The Steam That Turns The Wheel".

An opening night surprise! I had been writing the work in plaintext and rehearsing it in the Twine IDE, not needing to render it down to a final HTML file yet since of course it hadn't been completed yet, crawling toward half-baked-ness one coffee break at a time. But I was sure that when showtime struck, I'd be reading it off the laptop in the least labour-intensive way possible: just scrolling down a single browser window with no-precision-needed strikes of the space bar and following choices with a single easy-to-quickly-execute hypertext click. However, after sound check, I was reminded that compiled files in Twine are of course HTML, and consequently manual indents are removed, instantly obscuring all of my cues distinguishing between which groupings of words are verses and which are the chorus! I went to the onboard help seeking a reminder of how to paste the relevant indenting HTML commands into the passages and found that the required information was unobtainable without being online, a capability that the concert hall did not offer. So the performance ran through my reading from the Twine IDE, which necessitated my stalling a bit between songs (something I'd been hoping to avoid) while closing windows of completed songs, locating and opening new windows for upcoming songs, scrolling to the top of passages prior to getting their songs started, etc. In short, a lot of hassle. It turns out that I needed the inter-song banter anyhow to explain to the audience how and why the new song-section they were being delivered wasn't necessarily a best match for the choice they thought they had made (though as the drummer pointed out, if I'd made less of a fuss about it, due to the somewhat random stream-of-consciousness flow of the work's plots, if I hadn't been so explicitly apologetic and salvage-spinning, they might not have clued in that I was only accepting half of their input -- not a great track record for a piece fundamentally about taking audience input, but admittedly still more than most music pieces offer. Far from a complete success, but definitely a partial one.)

In a nutshell, I'm very glad that I pursued this trailblazing avenue (though I would definitely think twice before penning a sequel -- it takes a lot of time to write the songs filling out an exponentially expanding tree of bifurcating branches, though of course with greater planning a more streamlined graph can be plotted which accepts player choice but still manages to direct a focused narrative down a hallway of sorts); there were elements I struggled with but they virtually all arrived at after a great deal of consideration and, well, soul-searching: by and large most problems arose as a calculated lesser of two evils rather than as unexpected trouble encountered along the way. I would like to continue polishing up this prototype and presenting future versions at eg. the annual Horace Phair party in Portland, the ArtsWells festival 2014, perhaps as a Fringe Festival show somewhere someday. Wherever it crops up, I'm pleased that I've concocted a clever and charming gimmick that allows us to offer something musical we can deliver that no one else really can: I can go out there with my band and play a game with audiences.

But first I will need to finish writing it.

With this out the door in a beta state of sorts, I'm prioritizing working on a couple of non-hyperfiction interactive fiction works, but I look forward to continuing to flesh it out (eg. Horace Phair cited above is in just three weeks). It means that I should also look at coming up with some more traditional gamebook materials to share here on this blog and take a break from my project status updates; it turns out that I've already picked much of the easy-to-convert low-hanging fruit, and curiously as I get older (and, well, after a somewhat frosty exchange with Emily Short) I am putting a higher priority on posting these conversions with the permission and blessing of the original authors. Further, I just don't have a great deal of free time these days, a vital fuel for this blind brute force technique of presenting the works: a programmer can figure out a way to get you the complete lyrics to "Ninety nine bottles of beer on the wall" much quicker than a mere typesetter can. But I have a pile of half-finished conversions, so we'll see if I can't get a couple of them wrapped up before the year's end.