Saturday, October 22, 2022



So I was poking around Moby Games, looking at old Commodore 64 games, as I am wont to do from time to time. Today I was checking out Phantasie II. I never played this one back in the day. The only SSI titles I was into were Wizard's Crown and Curse of the Azure Bonds. But Phantasie II is part of the ecosystem of importable character games, so I have some curiosity about it. Overall, I mostly played Ultima III & IV, the first couple of Bard's Tales and the first Might & Magic. I just plain missed Phantasie series.

But I wanted to show you a screenshot I stumbled across. I think it nicely illustrates a couple of small but important points about play.

I wonder how many people named their CRPG wizards Fizzban back in the day. 

This is a top down dungeon exploration view, which I am not normally a fan of in CRPGs. I generally prefer 3D first-person view when computer dungeoneering. 

But what I want to talk about here is the text. "Fizzban hears monsters. Go back?"

What's happening here is important. The party is given an opportunity to engage the monsters or not. Player agency is a critical component of play. But equally important in this moment is the principle of information control. The DM needs to give enough information to the players to make a choice. However, that doesn't mean the DM is under any obligation to give the players all the information. "Fizzban hears monsters" may be a little sparse for tabletop play, but the principle behind it is sound. 

After all, what do monsters in general sound like?  (For a cool example of the different sounds monsters can make, go to youtube and watch some clips of the old Atari 2600 game Crypts of Chaos. I quite like the sound effect used by the one-eyed slimes.) But the point remains that the DM doesn't say "You hear 14 orcs with glaives and one orc sergeant in platemail with a broadsword and mace in the next room." Players get to make a choice based upon best available information, not a complete snapshot of the situation. Sometimes that info is inadequate or just plain wrong. But you have to make a choice anyway. Nobody said adventuring was easy.

1 comment:

  1. Brian5:03 PM

    The old Texas Instruments computer had a game called Tunnels of Doom where monsters had their own sounds, too. You could listen at doors and maybe hear what was inside before choosing to enter or not.