Key & Compass presents:
Zero Sum Game
by Cody Sandifer

Zero Sum Game is a TADS 2 work of interactive fiction and is © 1997, 1998 by Cody Sandifer. It was entered in IF Comp 1997 where it took 11th place.

You play as either Duff Malcolm Mint or Charlotte Candy Mint who returns home with 75 points and a bag full of treasure. Unfortunately, your mother is very displeased and demands that you return all those treasures to their owners and not to return home until those 75 points are gone.

This solution is by David Welbourn, and is based on Release 2, the post-competition release of the work.

SPOILERS AHEAD. Reading a walkthrough prematurely can sometimes diminish one's enjoyment of a work of interactive fiction. Please make an honest effort to play the work before reading this walkthrough.


Bedroomof theSorceress Under-neaththe Bed WindingRoad Dragon'sLair Shackof theSorceress HalfwayDown OceanShore Insidethe Raft SirenIsle WeedField RockyCrag CastleCourtyard Fork Draw-bridge TrollBridge,North Side Hovelville TrollBridge,South Side Orphanage Cross-roads Roadway FrontPorch DiningRoom DirtPatch ShadyGlade LowerBranches out d go underbed u


Would you like to restore a previously saved game?:> n

Would you rather be a Mama's (B)oy or Mama's (G)irl?:> borg

If you chose b, you play as Duff Malcolm Mint.

If you chose g, you play as Charlotte Candy Mint.

Front Porch

You begin with 75 points and 5000 turns. Both your score and the turn count decrease as you play.

> full score. commands. info. verbose. warning on.

> x me. i.

> x sword. x candy. x pear. x lantern.

> take sack. x sack. read tag.

> x ring. (Belonged to a sorceress or wizard.)

> x sapphire. x honey.

> open mailbox. (Chippy the chipmunk emerges.)

> x Chippy.

So, what sorts of commands does Chippy know? ATTACK, FETCH, SIT, and STAY, as far as I know. (You learn what commands Chippy knows by experimenting, and by guessing they're the same commands you might teach to a dog.) You can also throw acorns at things to get Chippy to go after it. And you can throw Chippy at things too.

> w.

Roadway, scene of the First Battle

Chippy eats the acorn here as soon as you enter with him. Don't worry; there's other acorns you can get elsewhere.

> x fireflies. x corn. x smoke. x orphanage.

> n.


Any attempt to take the baby or bassinet is countered with "DON'T WAKE THE BABY" from the children. The children's wishes cannot be defied by anyone — not berserkers, not dragaons, and definitely not you. You may optionally try talking to them, however:

> x baby. x hand. x bassinet. x children.

> ask children about baby.

> ask children about children.

> ask children about orphange.

> give candy to children. (no)

Now try to give the candy back to the baby.

> put candy in bassinet. (Not good enough.)

> give candy to baby. (Be more specific.)

> put candy in baby's hand. (It falls out.)

> take candy. lick it. put candy in baby's hand. (−5; success!)

> s. w.


Apparently, you cheated the merchant by buying a pear with Canadian money.

> x merchant. x stand. give pear to merchant. (no)

> x oak. x signs. step lightly. (ha)

> eat pear. (You might as well; the used pear is of no other use to you.)

> s.

Shady Glade

Chippy eats one of the two acorns immediately; grab the other quickly!

> take acorn. x oak. u.

Lower Branches

You can always can more acorns from the stash.

> x hollow. note 1. x stash. take stash. (You get more acorns.)

> put acorn in hollow. (−5 for returning Chippy to his home)

Don't worry. Chippy continues to follow you; sometimes in your inventory, and sometimes not.

> x sloth. (It's sleeping.)

> x leaves. count leaves.

Simple attempts to wake or take the sloth fail.

> u. (no: can't get past the sloth)

Like the baby in the orphanage, the sloth will sleep peacefully for the entire game.

> d. w.

Dirt Patch

> x Maurice. x pouch. x mound. x nymph. x adventurer.

> ask Maurice about nymph. ("That's Maurice's adventurer in her mouth.")

> ask Maurice about adventurer.

> ask Maurice about Maurice.

> ask Maurice about pouch.

> Maurice, follow me.

> Maurice, give pouch to me. (no: He'd die first. Foreshadowing?)

> e. n.


Maurice buys a fresh pear from the merchant, using a gold coin from his pouch.

> Maurice, give pear to me. (He refuses. "Maurice will starve!")

> s. w.

Dirt Patch

Maurice is friendly and talkative, and by killing him now, you're robbing yourself of the joy of his company for much of the game. Asking him about various topics might even contain useful hints. However, you do need to kill him eventually, and doing it now rather than later simplifies the walkthrough. Sorry!

Oh, and kill the nymph too. She's a freebie.

> kill nymph with sword.

> kill Maurice with sword. look.

> x Maurice. take pouch. take fresh pear.

> open pouch. look in it. (It's empty.)

> e. n.


> give fresh pear to merchant. (−10)

> nw.

Hovelville, scene of the Second Battle

You can ask the peasants about a few topics: castle, dragon, lord, village.

> x peasants. x castle.

> n.


> x guardian. x bridge. x castle. note 2. x moat.

Deal with the guardian later.

> s. se. ne.

Troll Bridge, South Side

A rare treat: this may be the only troll bridge in any game or story where the troll never stops you from crossing his bridge. A shame Maurice isn't here to appreciate it.

> x troll. x bridge. note 3. x river. x birds.

> tickle troll. (Bump cries.)

> apologize to troll. (−10; you are now his friend)

> ask Bump about Bump. ask Bump about bridge.

> ask Bump about river. ask Bump about birds.

> n. n.


By the way, the text on these signs changes every time you look at them. However, they only give generic warnings and are amongst the most unhelpful signage ever.

> nw.

Weed Field

By the way, the elves aren't chatty, and the weeds are poisonous. Take, but don't eat, the weeds.

> x elves. x weeds. take it.

> x clump. smell it.

> n.

Winding Road

> x formations.

> turn on lantern. e.

Dragon's Lair, scene of the Final Battle

> x dragon. x skull. look in skull. x clawmarks.

> w. turn off lantern. s. se. ne.

Rocky Crag

> x ocean. n.

Shack of the Sorceress / Shack of the Wizard

When you arrive, a stranger exits the shack, locks the door, and heads east. Ignore your other concerns and follow them!

> e. e.

Ocean Shore

You see the stranger throw the key into the nest before they leave for parts unknown.

As you saw with the key, small things thrown at the nest (or at the gull) are captured and put into the nest. The gull lets larger items fly past. Chippy will try to climb the pole if you throw an acorn at the nest, but the gull stops him or you from climbing.

> x wood. x pole. x nest. x gull.

> x isle. note 4.

> x sand. dig sand. (You find a concrete block at the base of the pole.)

> x block. shake pole.

Acquiring the key takes four steps:

> throw acorn at gull. (Chippy and gull fight halfway up the pole.)

> climb pole. (The gull attacks you instead. Chippy reaches the nest. You fall down.)

> Chippy, fetch. (Chippy brings the key to you.)

> take key. x key.

> w. w.

Shack of the Sorceress / Shack of the Wizard

> x shack. knock on door.

> unlock door with key. n.

Bedroom of the Sorceress / Bedroom of the Wizard

The sorceress (or wizard) is naked, blindfolded, and tied to their bed. If you're playing as a boy, you find a sorceress; if you're playing as a girl, you find a wizard.

By the way, you can refer to the occupant as "sorceress", "wizard", "woman", or "man", regardless of whichever gender they present themself as.

> x sorceressorx wizardorx womanorx man.

> x bed. look under bed. go under bed.

Underneath the Bed

> x form. x mattress.

> ask form about form. (It shushes you.)

> out.

Bedroom of the Sorceress / Bedroom of the Wizard

> x vapors. x accoutrements.

You may optionally attempt to er, please the person on the bed. You will fail, however. The occupant is totally unimpressed with all your attempts at lovemaking. I'm refering to the occupant as "man" here since it's the shortest alias to type and I couldn't find a gender-neutral term that worked.

> touch man. kiss man. lick man. tickle man. screw man.

> untie man. (Not what they want.)

Anyway, let's return the ring.

> x finger. put ring on finger. (−10)

Note, if you give anything else to the occupant, they make it vanish. Also, pouring honey on them isn't polite.

Return all the way to the drawbridge:

> s. s. sw. s. s. sw. nw. n.


Experimentation shows that most things thrown at the Guaridan are knocked into the moat for not being lively enough. The only living thing you can throw is Chippy. And if you've tried to eat the weed, you learn it's poisonous.

So, to poison the Guardian, you need to coat Chippy with weed and throw him!

> open jar. put honey on Chippy. (This makes him sticky.)

> put weed on Chippy. (This makes him poisonous.)

> take Chippy.

> throw Chippy at guardian. (The Guardian swallows Chippy whole, then dies seconds later.)

> n.

Castle Courtyard

The person, while inside the cage, won't respond well to conversation. If you're playing as a boy, a man named Benny is in the cage. If you're playing as a girl, a woman named Darlene is in the cage.

> x manorx woman.

> x cage. note 5. x barrel.

> break padlock.

The freed person tosses the barrel and takes everything from underneath, smashes the cage, introduces themself as Benny or Darlene, then heads south to resume their quest.

If you're playing the game for the very first time and following this walkthough, please save your game here and follow Benny/Darlene as they rampage all over the place:

Now restore your game.

If you want to win the game, you must hide yourself under the bed before Benny/Darlene gets there. Please go directly go to the shack, close the door, hide under the bed, and wait.

> s. s. se. ne. n. n. ne. n. n.

Bedroom of the Sorceress / Bedroom of the Wizard

> close door. go under bed.

Underneath the Bed

CAUTION: If Benny/Darlene discover you under the bed, you're dead. Timing is critical.

> z. (Wait repeatedly until you hear someone enter the shack, re-close the door, get undressed, drop a scroll, get onto the bed, and start having sex. When you hear Benny/Darlene say "More pudding", they are completely distracted and you can now steal the scroll.)

> take scroll.

> put scroll in sack. (It is imperative that you put the scroll inside your sack so Benny/Darlene doesn't see you carrying it later!)

> z. (You hear the door open and close.)

Move quickly! You don't want them to use their raft without you on it!

> out. s. e. e.

Ocean Shore

Don't stop to examine the raft or anything else. Just get on the raft.

> enter raft. (They stop you, but then relent, but only because you freed them from the cage.)

> enter raft. (You actually get on this time.)

Benny/Darlene also boards the raft.

Inside the Raft

This trip only lasts two turns. While in the raft, you may only examine things or wait.

> x Bennyorx Darlene. (They have a vorpal sword and magic feed corn.)

> x corn.

The raft reaches the isle and you both disembark.

Siren Isle

The corked siren mumbles something and you're unexpectedly in a conversation menu.

#? 1to3 (The siren gets irritated.)

#? 1to3 (She hands you a note.)

> read note.

CAUTION: If the siren is uncorked for two turns in a row, she lures you to your doom.

> take cork. (−10)

> give cork to Bennyorgive cork to Darlene. (They recork the siren, then summon birds to fly you back to the shore.)

Ocean Shore

Benny/Darlene will never bother you again. Let's look at that scroll:

> x scroll.

Head back to the drawbridge. Feel free to examine any dead bodies you find along the way.

> w. w. s. sw. s. s. sw. nw. n.


> x guardian. cut belly with sword. (Chippy returns to you.)

> pet Chippy.

Head back to the dead dragon.

> s. se. ne. n. n. nw. n. light lantern. e.

Dragon's Lair

CAUTION: If the dragon is the only corpse here, the spell fails. It needs something else dead to replace its missing brain.

> kill Chippy with sword. x Chippy.

Also, you must be holding the scroll for the spell to work.

> take scroll. cast scroll. (−15; Hello, Dragon-Chippy.)

You now have a friendly dragon following you. Return home with it.

> x dragon.

> w. s. se. s. s. sw. e. e.

Front Porch

Dragon-Chippy makes short work of the skeletons. Then your mother arrives, still peeved, but she relents and lets you in for dinner.

Dining Room

Your mother, in mid-preparation, starts looking for her lost good luck stone.

> x table. x mother.

> give sapphire to mother. (−10)

She serves you some yorl bird stew, but she forgot to remove the poisonous talons again!

*** You have died, mama's boy/girl. Game over***

[If you restart or restore, type GONZO for a list of fun stuff to try.]



To see this list, type GONZO within the game:

Did you try to...

Needless to say, every action is a lot more fun with Maurice around. I miss the little feller already.

Of course, you don't learn the GONZO command until you've won the game.


Found dead:



The response to the CREDITS command is:

Zero Sum Game was written by Cody Sandifer (email redacted).

Copyright (c) 1997,1998 by Cody Sandifer. All rights reserved.

This program is freeware. It is not in the public domain. You may copy and distribute it as long as it is not modified in any way. It may not be sold for profit, though a nominal distribution fee may be charged. Please contact the author for more information.


The footnote.t, plurals.t, and bugs.t TADS modules sure came in handy. Much thanks to the authors.

The betatesters deserve thanks for their fine contributions: Jon Blask, John Ferris, Luc French, Matthew Garrett, Jane Kerr, Dylan O'Donnell, Morten Holm Pedersen, and David Wildstrom. Dylan O'Donnell and David Wildstrom earn Big Kahuna thanks for their over-the-top efforts.

Folks who sent in helpful comments during or immediately after the 1997 IF competition: David Glasser, Russell Glasser, Stephen Granade, Jon Petersen, and Christine Simoes Tilden.

Version 2 playtesters: Aapo Haapanen and Brian Uri. Thanks!

I look forward to your comments. If you find bugs -- or want to share opinions -- don't hesitate to contact me. Really.

Pronoun warning: 'Them' typically won't work when applied to plural objects (e.g. pickles, geese). Sorry.

This game is a piece of fiction. All characters, places and situations are figments of the author's imagination. Any similarities between characters in the game and real persons, living or dead, are purely coincidental.


Note that there are numerous ways to make the game unwinnable. A few examples:

Use the WARNING ON command if you want to be notified when an action makes the game unwinnable.


Footnotes are numbered in the order you encounter them within the story.


Note that dead bodies are usually heavy and you can only carry one at a time. Also, if you want to carry a dead body, you may have to drop some stuff or put stuff into your sack to make room for it. Dead bodies can't fit into your sack.


This is the response to SCORE at the start of the game:

You have 75 points out of a possible 75.

You can lose these points, by negating your pre-game actions in various ways:

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