How to play - About Portcullis

Until three months ago, the town of Portcullis was an unremarkable fishing port on the coast of the western sea. Then one day, for a reason nobody can remember, it was taken over by an evil sorcerer named Zapdorf. That's about as involved as plots usually get, in these parts.

Since that day, Portcullis has become a popular attraction for freelance professional adventurers - wizards, warriors and the like - who fancy a shot at overthrowing a sorcerer. Meanwhile, for the people who actually live here, life hasn't changed all that much, except for more skeletons patrolling the streets and a few purges of the more troublesome citizens.

Keeping your head down has worked for you so far. It's a new morning, and time to report to your job on the fishing boat, which should be setting off from the harbour just north along the coast from your hut. Let's hope Zapdorf will stay out of your business for another day.

How to play

(This is about how to interact with the game. For hints on the puzzles and story, see the hints page.)

Portcullis is a work of interactive fiction, or a text adventure. Unlike graphical games, which are limited by hardware and software capabilities, these games use a technology of unsurpassed advancement - natural language - to project the images directly into your imagination.

The game gives you a description of where you are and what is going on, and you tell it what you want to do by typing a simple English sentence at the prompt at the bottom of the screen, then pressing Enter. Including an exhaustive list of words the game understands would spoil your enjoyment of playing, but some of the commands are:

north, east, south, west, in, out, up, down
Walk in the specified direction. (You can abbreviate the compass directions to the letters n/e/s/w.) (In places there are also secondary directions like northeast [ne].)

Repeat the description of the room (or other location) you are in. Normally these will not be printed automatically after the first time you are in a room. If you want to see the descriptions every time, type verbose. To turn this off, type terse.

You can also look at (or x for examine) particular objects, characters, or parts of the scenery.

talk to (character)
Find out what one of the other characters in the game has to say. If you want to get more specific, you can ask them about specific topics, e.g. ask Staunton about his staff.

take (object), drop (object)
Pick up or put down an object. To pick up everything you can see, or drop everything you are carrying, use take all or drop all.

inventory (or i)
Show a list of what you are carrying.

show (object) to (character)
Find out how a character reacts to a particular object, e.g. show note to Skipper.

save (filename), load (filename)
This saves your game to a small local file so that you can restore from this point later with load. It's recommended that you do this before trying anything risky or irreversible! dir shows you a list of saved games.
This uses local storage, so by using this feature you are consenting to this webpage keeping a small amount of information on your computer. It isn't used for anything else except saving and restoring games.

Undoes your previous action. You can do this several times in a row.

The game understands many more commands and finding out what they are is part of the fun. Experiment!

About Portcullis

This game was written in December 2015, the month of the 35th anniversary of the release of Infocom's Zork, one of the first complex text adventures and a trendsetter for the genre. Portcullis's humorous fantasy feel, old-school looks, and sorcerer-overthrowing plot are a tribute to those early games which created the world of interactive fiction.

The writing, programming and artwork are all by me. The game uses my "Versificator" javascript text adventure engine, also used for my games Hamlet and Aunts and Butlers.

The banner and "box cover" art are also mine, with apologies to Infocom.

The game uses the free font "Nouveau IBM" by Arto Hatanpää, available at dafont.

Thanks to: David Court, hedgeho, h.z., Ken Johnson, Louise Johnson, Eve Morris, Filza Qureshi, Rob Ricks, rouservoko, Alex Shaw, verityvirtue, Alex Walsh, and Amy Worthington.

- Robin Johnson
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