You’ve probably already noticed that you interact with the story by typing a
command whenever you see the “prompt,” which looks like this:
Knowing this much, you’re probably thinking one of two things: “Great, I can
type absolutely anything I want, in plain English, and the story will do my
bidding,” or, “Great, now I have to figure out yet another heinously complex
command language for a computer program; I think I’ll go play Minefield.”
Well, neither extreme is quite true.
In actual play, you’ll only need a fairly small set of commands, and the
commands are mostly in ordinary English, so there’s not very much you’ll have
to learn or remember. Even though that command prompt can look intimidating,
don’t let it scare you off — there are just a few simple things you have to
In an Interactive Fiction, you play the part of a major character in the story.
As you work your way through the story, the character (generally known as
“you”) will move from place to place, do things, and converse with people. You
(the actual person sitting at the computer or exploring the story on your hand-
held) will generally be able to control what “you” (the character) do in the
world of the story. You’ll control your character by typing commands, and the
software will indicate what happens as a result. For example, if you type PICK
UP THE BOX, the character whose part you’re playing will pick up the box —
unless there’s some reason why this action isn’t possible. The box might be
bolted to the floor, for example.
You’ll almost never have to refer to anything that isn’t directly mentioned in
the story; this is a story, after all, not a guessing game where you have to
think of everything that goes together with some random object. For example,
if the character whose part you’re playing is described as wearing a jacket,
you might naturally assume that the jacket has pockets, or buttons, or a zipper
— but if the story never mentions those things, you shouldn’t have to worry
You won’t have to think of every conceivable action “you” could perform in the
world of the story. The point of the game isn’t to make you guess which
commands will work, or (worse) guess what words to use to communicate with the
software. Instead, you’ll only have to use a relatively small number of
simple, ordinary actions. To give you an idea of what we mean, here’s a list
of some of the common types of commands you can use. (The actual objects
referred to, such as the conical hat, are not necessarily to be found in this
GO NORTH (or EAST, SOUTHWEST, and so on, or UP, DOWN, IN, OUT)
TAKE THE BOX
DROP THE DISK
LOOK AT THE DISK
READ THE BOOK
OPEN THE BOX
CLOSE THE BOX
LOOK IN THE BOX
LOOK THROUGH WINDOW
PUT FLOPPY DISK INTO BOX
PUT BOX ON TABLE
WEAR THE CONICAL HAT
TAKE OFF HAT
TURN ON LANTERN
LIGHT CANDLE WITH MATCH
TURN DIAL TO 11
THROW PIE AT CLOWN
ATTACK TROLL WITH SWORD
UNLOCK DOOR WITH KEY
LOCK DOOR WITH KEY
CLIMB THE LADDER
GET IN THE CAR
SIT ON THE CHAIR
STAND ON THE TABLE
LIE ON THE BED
TYPE HELLO ON COMPUTER
LOOK UP BOB IN THE PHONE BOOK
ASK WIZARD ABOUT WAND
ASK WIZARD FOR POTION
TELL WIZARD ABOUT DUSTY TOME
SHOW SCROLL TO WIZARD
GIVE WAND TO WIZARD
YES (or NO)
Most of the verbs you’ll need to complete the story are shown above; there are
a few additional commands you may need as well, but they’ll follow the same
simple format as the commands above.
A few of these commands deserve more explanation. LOOK AROUND (which you
abbreviate to LOOK, or even just L) shows the description of the current
location. You can use this if you want to refresh your memory of your
character’s surroundings. INVENTORY (or just I) shows a list of everything
your character is carrying. WAIT (or Z) just lets a little time pass in the
You’ll probably use a few commands quite a lot, so to save typing, you can
abbreviate some of the most frequently-used commands:
LOOK AROUND can be shortened to LOOK, or merely L
INVENTORY can be simply I
GO NORTH can be written NORTH, or even just N (likewise E, W, S, NE, SE, NW,
SW, U for UP and D for DOWN)
LOOK AT THE DISK can be entered as EXAMINE DISK or simply X DISK
ASK ABOUT (topic) can be abbreviated A (topic)
TELL ABOUT (topic) can be entered as T (topic)
A Few More Command Details
When you’re entering commands, you can use capital or small letters in any
mixture. You can use words such as THE and A when they’re appropriate, but you
can omit them if you prefer. In many cases the story will understand if you
use an adjective rather than the noun. For instance, if you find a gold coin,
a silver coin, and a copper coin, you can examine the copper coin with the
command X COPPER. There’s no need to use the word COIN in this command.
Conversely, if you try to X COIN when several coins are in view, the story will
ask which coin you’re referring to. You can then answer COPPER.
You can abbreviate any word to its first six letters, but if you choose not to
abbreviate, the story will pay attention to everything you actually type; this
means, for example, that you can abbreviate SUPERCALIFRAGILISTICEXPIALIDOCIOUS
to SUPERC or SUPERCAL, but not to SUPERCSDF.
At any given time in the story, your character is in a “location.” The story
describes the location when your character first enters, and again any time you
type LOOK. Each location usually has a short name that’s displayed just before
its full description. The name is useful when drawing a map, and the short
name can help jog your memory as you’re finding your way around.
Each location is a separate room, or a large outdoor area, or the like. For
the most part, going to a location is as specific as you have to get about
travel; once your character is in a location, the character can usually see and
reach everything within the location, so you don’t have to worry about where
exactly your character is standing within the room. Once in a while, you might
find that something is out of reach, perhaps because it’s on a high shelf or on
the other side of a moat; in these cases, it’s sometimes useful to be more
specific about your character’s location, such as by standing on something
(STAND ON TABLE, for example).
Traveling from one location to another is usually done using a direction
command: GO NORTH, GO NORTHEAST, GO UP, and so on. (The word GO isn’t needed:
The story will understand UP as meaning GO UP. You can even abbreviate the
cardinal and vertical directions to one letter each — N, S, E, W, U, D — and
the diagonal directions to two: NE, NW, SE, SW.) The story should always tell
you the directions that you can go when it describes a location, so you should
never have to try all the unmentioned directions to see if they go anywhere.
In most interpreter software, the directions you can go will also be shown in
the Banner at the top of the window.
In most cases, backtracking (by reversing the direction you took from one
location to another) will take you back to where you started. In some stories,
a few passages have twists and turns, but that’s not the case in this story.
Most of the time, when the story describes a door or passageway, you won’t need
to explicitly open the door to go through the passage, as the story will do
this for you. Only when the story specifically states that a door is blocking
your way will you have to deal with the door explicitly.
You’ll find a few objects in the story that your character can carry or
otherwise manipulate. If you want to carry something, type TAKE and the
object’s name: TAKE BOOK. (GET works exactly like TAKE, and is easier to
type.) If you want to drop something your character is carrying, DROP it. The
DROP action will move the object to the floor if you’re indoors, or to the
ground if you’re in an outdoor location.
You usually won’t have to be very specific about exactly how your character is
supposed to carry or hold something, so you shouldn’t have to worry about which
hand is holding which item or anything like that. It might sometimes be useful
to put one object inside or on top of another, though; for example, PUT BOOK IN
SHOPPING BAG or PUT VASE ON TABLE.
You can often get a lot of extra information (and sometimes vital clues) by
examining objects, which you can do with the LOOK AT command (or, equivalently,
EXAMINE, which you can abbreviate to simply X, as in X PAINTING). Most
experienced players get in the habit of examining everything in a new location
Interacting with Other Characters
Your character will encounter other people and creatures in the story. You can
interact with these characters.
You can talk to other characters by asking or telling them about things in the
story. For example, you might ASK WIZARD ABOUT WAND or TELL GUARD ABOUT ALARM.
You should always use the ASK ABOUT or TELL ABOUT phrasing; the story won’t be
able to understand other formats, so you don’t have to worry about thinking up
complicated questions like “ask guard how to open the window.” In most cases,
you’ll get the best results by asking about specific objects or other
characters you’ve encountered in the story, rather than about abstract topics
such as MEANING OF LIFE.
If you’re asking or telling the same person about several topics in succession,
you can save some typing by abbreviating ASK ABOUT to A, and TELL ABOUT to T.
For example, once you’re talking to the wizard, you can abbreviate ASK WIZARD
ABOUT AMULET to simply A AMULET. This addresses the question to the same
character as in the last ASK or TELL.
To greet another character, type TALK TO (Person). This tries to get the other
character’s attention and start a conversation. TALK TO is always optional,
since you can start in with ASK or TELL directly if you prefer.
If you’re not sure what to discuss, you can type TOPICS any time you’re talking
to someone. This will show you a list of things that your character might be
interested in discussing with the other person. The TOPICS command usually
won’t list everything that you can discuss, so feel free to explore other
topics even if they’re not listed.
You can also interact with other characters using physical objects. For
example, you might be able to give something to another character, as in GIVE
MONEY TO CLERK, or show an object to someone, as in SHOW IDOL TO PROFESSOR.
You might also be able to fight other characters, as in ATTACK TROLL WITH SWORD
or THROW AXE AT DWARF.
In some cases, you can tell a character to do something for you. You do this
by typing the character’s name, then a comma, then the command you want the
character to perform, using the same wording you’d use for a command to your
own character. For example:
ROBOT, GO NORTH
Keep in mind, though, that there’s no guarantee that other characters will obey
your orders. Most characters have minds of their own and won’t automatically
do whatever you ask.
If a character is holding an object that you’d like to acquire, or has access
to it, you might try the ASK FOR command: ASK GUARD FOR THERMOS. If the
character refuses, that isn’t necessarily the end of the process: Possibly you
need to offer something in trade, or befriend the character in some way.
Occasionally it’s useful to continue a conversation topic for more than one
turn. Usually the character will reveal everything you need to know in
response to your first ASK ABOUT command, but you can try the G (or AGAIN)
command to see if the second response moves the conversation forward.
Time passes in the story only in response to commands you type. This means
that nothing happens while the story is waiting for you to type something.
Each command takes about the same amount of time in the story. If you
specifically want to let some extra time pass within the story, because you
think something is about to happen, you can type WAIT (or just Z).
Saving and Restoring
You can save a snapshot of your current position in the story at any time, so
that you can later restore the story to the same position. The snapshot will
be saved to a file on your computer’s disk, and you can save as many different
snapshots as you’d like (to the extent you have space on your disk, anyway —
and since the saved story files are small, you’ll almost never run out of space
In this story, your character will never be killed, and you’ll never find
yourself in a situation where it’s impossible to complete the story. If you
seem to be stuck it’s most likely because you haven’t figured out what you need
to do next, or how to solve some problem that your character is confronted
with. But it might conceivably be a bug in the software. If you find yourself
in a situation that looks like a bug, please email the authors
(email@example.com) with the
subject line “Mrs. Pepper Bug Report” and let us know about it! Use your
computer’s Copy command to copy the text from the story up to where you got
stuck, and paste the text into the email. Also, tell us why you’re stuck.
Assuming the software is operating as intended, whatever happens to your
character, you’ll always be able to find a way to complete the story. So,
unlike in many text games, you don’t have to worry about saving positions to
protect yourself against getting stuck in impossible situations. Of course,
you can still save as often as you’d like, to suspend your session and return
to it later, or to save positions that you think you might want to revisit.
To save your position, type SAVE at the command prompt. The story will ask you
for the name of a disk file to use to store snapshot. You’ll have to specify a
filename suitable for your computer system, and the disk will need enough free
space to store the file; you’ll be told if there’s any problem saving the file.
You should use a filename that doesn’t already exist on your machine, because
the new file will overwrite any existing file with the same name.
You can restore a previously saved position by typing RESTORE at any prompt.
The story will ask you for the name of the file to restore. After the computer
reads the file, everything in the story will be exactly as it was when you
saved that file.
Even if you haven’t saved your position recently, you can usually take back
your last few commands with the UNDO command. Each time you type UNDO, the
story reverses the effect of one command, restoring the story as it was before
you typed that command. UNDO is limited to taking back the last few commands,
so this isn’t a substitute for SAVE/RESTORE, but it’s very handy if you find
your character unexpectedly in a dangerous situation, or you make a mistake you
want to take back.
Some Other Special Commands
The story understands a few other special commands that you might find useful.
AGAIN (or just G): Repeats the last command. (If your last input line had
several commands, only the last single command on the line is repeated.)
INVENTORY (or just I): Shows what your character is carrying.
LOOK (or just L): Shows the full description of your character’s current
EXITS: Shows the list of obvious exits from the current location.
EXITS ON/OFF/STATUS/LOOK: Controls the way the game displays exit lists. EXITS
ON puts a list of exits in the status line and also lists exits in each room
description. EXITS OFF turns off both of these listings. EXITS STATUS turns
on just the status line exit list, and EXITS ROOM turns on only the room
OOPS: Corrects a single misspelled word in a command, without retyping the
entire command. You can only use OOPS immediately after the story tells you it
didn’t recognize a word in your previous command. Type OOPS followed by the
QUIT (or just Q): Terminates the story.
RESTART: Starts the story over from the beginning.
RESTORE: Restores a position previously saved with SAVE.
SAVE: Saves the current position in a disk file.
SCRIPT: Starts making a transcript of your story session, saving all of the
displayed text to a disk file, so that you can peruse it later or print it out.
SCRIPT OFF: Ends a transcript that you started with SCRIPT.
UNDO: Takes back the last command.
HINT: Opens the built-in hint system.
HINTS OFF: Disables the built-in hint system, allowing you to avoid the
temptation to make too free use of the hints.
SAVE DEFAULTS: Saves your current settings for things like NOTIFY, EXITS, and
FOOTNOTES as defaults. This means that your settings will be restored
automatically the next time you start a new game, or RESTART this one.
RESTORE DEFAULTS: Explicitly restores the option settings you previously saved
with SAVE DEFAULTS.
The story doesn’t pretend to know every word in the English language. The
story might even occasionally use words in its own descriptions that it doesn’t
understand in commands. If you type a command with a word the story doesn’t
know, the story will tell you which word it didn’t recognize. If the story
doesn’t know a word for something it described, and it doesn’t know a few
obvious synonyms for that thing when you try them as alternatives, it should be
safe to assume that the object is just there as a detail of the setting, and
isn’t important to the story.
If you type a command that leaves out some important information, the story
will try its best to figure out what you mean. Whenever it’s reasonably
obvious from context what you mean, the story will make an assumption about the
missing information and proceed with the command. The story will point out
what it’s assuming in these cases, to avoid any confusion from a mismatch
between the story’s assumptions and yours. For example:
TIE UP THE THIEF
(with the rope)
Working quickly, you bind the burglar’s hands
securely behind him with the rope.
If the command is ambiguous enough that the story can’t safely make an
assumption, you’ll be asked for more information. You can answer these
questions by typing the missing information.
UNLOCK THE DOOR
What do you want to unlock it with?
Which key do you mean, the gold key, or the silver key?
If the story asks you one of these questions, and you decide that you don’t
want to proceed with the original command after all, you can just type in a
brand new command instead of answering the question.
Advanced Command Formats
Once you get comfortable with entering commands, you might be interested to
know about some more complex command formats that the story will accept. These
advanced commands are all completely optional, because you can always do the
same things with the simpler formats we’ve talked about so far, but experienced
players often like the advanced formats because they can save you a little
Using Multiple Objects at Once. In most commands, you can operate on multiple
objects in a single command. Use the word AND, or a comma, to separate one
object from another:
TAKE THE BOX, THE FLOPPY DISK, AND THE ROPE
PUT DISK AND ROPE IN BOX
DROP BOX AND ROPE
You can use the words ALL and EVERYTHING to refer to everything applicable to
your command, and you can use EXCEPT or BUT (right after the word ALL) to
exclude specific objects:
PUT ALL BUT DISK AND ROPE INTO BOX
TAKE EVERYTHING OUT OF THE BOX
TAKE ALL OFF SHELF
ALL refers to everything that makes sense for your command, excluding things
inside other objects matching the ALL. For example, if you’re carrying a box
and a rope, and the box contains a floppy disk, typing DROP ALL will drop the
box and the rope, and the floppy will remain in the box.
“It” and “Them.” You can use IT and THEM to refer to the last object or
objects that you used in a command:
TAKE THE BOX
TAKE THE DISK AND THE ROPE
PUT THEM IN THE BOX
Multiple Commands At Once. You can put multiple commands on a single input
line by separating the commands with periods or the word THEN, or with a comma
or AND. For example:
TAKE THE DISK AND PUT IT IN THE BOX
TAKE BOX. OPEN IT.
UNLOCK THE DOOR WITH THE KEY. OPEN IT, THEN GO NORTH.
If the story doesn’t understand one of the commands, it will tell you what it
couldn’t understand, and ignore everything after that on the line.
A Few Tips
Now that you know the technical details of entering commands, you might be
interested in some strategy pointers. Here are a few techniques that
experienced interactive fiction players use when approaching a story.
EXAMINE everything, especially when you enter a new location for the first
time. Looking at objects will often reveal details that aren’t mentioned in
the broader description of the location. If examining an object mentions
detailed parts of the object, examine them as well.
If the story has more than a few locations, use a pencil and paper to make a
map. When you encounter a new location for the first time, note all of its
exits; this will make it easy to see at a glance if there are any exits you
haven’t explored yet. If you get stuck, you can scan your map for any
unexplored areas, where you might find what you’re looking for.
If the story doesn’t recognize a word or any of its synonyms, the object you’re
trying to manipulate probably isn’t important to the story. If you try
manipulating something, and the story responds with something like “that isn’t
important,” you can just ignore the object; it’s being mentioned strictly to
make the setting a bit more detailed and realistic.
If you’re trying to accomplish something, and nothing you do seems to work, pay
attention to what’s going wrong. If everything you try is met with utter
dismissal (“nothing happens” or “that’s not something you can open”), you might
simply be on the wrong track; step back and think about other ways of
approaching the problem. If the response is something more specific, it might
be a clue. For instance, “The guard says, ‘You can’t open that here!’ and
snatches the box from your hands” — this might indicate that you have to get
the guard to leave, or that you should take the box somewhere else before you
If you get completely stuck, you might try setting aside the current puzzle and
working on a different problem for a while. You might even want to save your
position and take a break from the game. The solution to the problem that’s
been thwarting your progress might come to you in a flash of insight when you
least expect it, and those moments of insight can be incredibly rewarding.
Some stories are best appreciated when played over a period of days or weeks.
If you’re enjoying the story, why rush through it?
Finally, if all else fails, you can try asking for help. A great place to go
for hints is the Usenet newsgroup rec.games.int-fiction.