WARNING: This post contains major spoilers related to the endgame of Crowther and Woods’ original Adventure! Do not proceed unless you’re okay with this.
The other day, Jonathan Ellis reported to me a bug in my C port of Crowther and Woods’ 350-point Adventure. (You can play my port online here.) The bug had to do with bookkeeping the player’s carrying capacity. I fixed it and then went over the code with a fine-toothed comb to verify the absence of other similar bugs… and lo and behold, I found a previously unknown(?) bug in the endgame of Crowther and Woods’ original game!
The first thing to know about Adventure’s bookkeeping is that it tracks
the player’s inventory in two redundant ways. First, location
-1 is the
“in hand” location. If you want to find out whether the player is toting
the gold nugget, you just check whether
PLACE(NUGGET).EQ.-1. (In fact,
Don Woods refactored this into a subroutine
so you can just check
TOTING(NUGGET).) Second, the game tracks the
absolute number of objects toted by the player; each time the player picks
up or drops an item, we increment
or decrement the global variable
HOLDNG. This second method was added
by Don Woods; in the only surviving copy of Crowther’s Fortran code,
HOLDNG does not exist. Woods added the two features of Adventure
that depend on
HOLDNG: the player’s seven-object carrying capacity
and the Plover Room puzzle.
Spoiler alert: We’re going to find a way to get
HOLDNGout of sync with
The original Adventure has exactly two “containers” — the wicker cage
and the water bottle. The cage can contain only the bird; the bottle can
contain either water or oil. (In Crowther’s source, you could empty
the bottle via
DRINK, but then it would remain empty forever after.
Woods added both the
OIL object, and the ability to refill the bottle in
Crowther’s cage-and-bird system is pretty simple: if you
GET BIRD when the bird
is already in the cage, then you also pick up the cage, and vice versa.
(And similarly for dropping the cage.) In all other respects, the bird and
cage behave like ordinary totable items. In particular, they each individually
increment and decrement
HOLDNG. If you’re carrying six objects and you try to
GET CAGE, you’ll succeed (because you haven’t yet reached your inventory limit
of 7 objects), resulting in
HOLDNG.EQ.8. This is fine.
Crowther’s bottle-and-liquids system works completely differently! In Crowther’s
original source code,
WATER were synonymous; there was no “water”
in the game except for what started in the bottle.
Whether the bottle was “full of water” or not was controlled by
0 meant “full” (its initial state), and
1 meant “empty.”
When Woods added the ability to refill the bottle via
GET WATER — and for that
DRINK WATER from the stream in the absence of any bottle — it suddenly
became important to have two distinct nouns
WATER. So Woods renamed
WATER object to
BOTTLE, and added new objects for the two liquids
OIL. The liquid contents of the bottle are controlled by
0 means “full of water,”
1 means “empty,” and
2 means “full of oil.”
But, in addition, the game updates
PLACE(OIL) so that they
are “in hand” at the appropriate times. When the bottle is full of water and you
pick up the bottle,
-1 (the “in hand” location).
When you drop the bottle or empty it,
0 (the “limbo” location).
The liquid objects
WATER do not contribute to the player’s
FILL BOTTLE (or even
GET WATER) even when
This means that Woods had to do some “clever” fixups in various places. For example,
in the code for the
9021 K=LIQ(0) IF(K.EQ.OBJ)OBJ=BOTTLE IF(OBJ.EQ.BOTTLE.AND.K.NE.0)PLACE(K)=0 IF(OBJ.EQ.CAGE.AND.PROP(BIRD).NE.0)CALL DROP(BIRD,LOC) IF(OBJ.EQ.BIRD)PROP(BIRD)=0 CALL DROP(OBJ,LOC) GOTO 2012
HOLDNG. Notice that if you
DROP CAGE while the bird is in the cage,
DROP twice; but if you call
DROP BOTTLE while the water is in the bottle,
DROP only once, and then use direct assignment to
PLACE(K) to send the
object back to limbo without decrementing
This cleverness needs to be replicated in every place that puts liquids into your inventory
or takes them out again —
POUR, and even
IF(NUMDIE.EQ.MAXDIE.OR..NOT.YEA)GOTO 20000 PLACE(WATER)=0 PLACE(OIL)=0 IF(TOTING(LAMP))PROP(LAMP)=0 DO 98 J=1,100 I=101-J IF(.NOT.TOTING(I))GOTO 98 K=OLDLC2 IF(I.EQ.LAMP)K=1 CALL DROP(I,K) 98 CONTINUE
The code for death first sends
OIL to limbo; then turns off your lamp; then drops
every toted object in the place where you died, except for the lamp, which (if toted) gets dropped
at the starting location instead. It is very important that we set
PLACE(WATER)=0 before looping
over your possessions — otherwise we’d drop
WATER in the place where you died, which would violate
our invariant that the liquid
WATER is only ever found in location
0 (“limbo”) or location
(“in hand”). Plus, if we ever called
I.EQ.WATER, we’d decrement
that breaks our invariant that liquids don’t contribute to
Where else do we
DROP everything toted by the player?
When we teleport the player into the endgame repository!
LOC=115 OLDLOC=115 NEWLOC=115 [...] PROP(MIRROR)=PUT(MIRROR,115,0) FIXED(MIRROR)=116 DO 11010 I=1,100 IDONDX=I 11010 IF(TOTING(IDONDX))CALL DSTROY(IDONDX) CALL RSPEAK(132) CLOSED=.TRUE. GOTO 2
DSTROY(OBJ) is a synonym for
MOVE(OBJ,0), which is implemented in terms of
So, if when the flash of light happens the player is carrying a non-empty bottle — and therefore
TOTING some liquid — the liquid will be
DSTROYed instead of manually sent to limbo;
which means the player’s
HOLDNG count will be decremented one too many times; which means
that the player will enter the endgame
TOTING zero objects but with
A player in this situation effectively has their inventory limit increased by 1!
And, coincidentally, there just happen to be exactly eight totable objects in the endgame: the bottle, oyster, lamp, cage, bird, pillow, and both black rods. So this bug’s effects are observable — just barely!
Here are screenshots I took of the original game emulated on Scott Healey’s excellent gobberwarts.com, as seen previously in “Colossal Cave Adventure: open world challenge” (2019-01-28). Notice the inventory lists in the lower right corner: in one case I’m able to pick up the second rod as my eighth item, and in the other case I’m not.
I have fixed this bug in my own C port — as well as the bug Jonathan Ellis actually reported, which was that my own port had stupidly had this same kind of bug any time you dropped a non-empty bottle at all. (My bug not only could be exploited to increase your carrying capacity ad infinitum, but caused very obvious misbehavior of the plover passage. Woods’ endgame bug has no such dramatic applications.)
I have also reported the bug “upstream” to Donald Knuth, whose brilliantly annotated CWEB version of Adventure served as the starting point for my own port. Knuth’s version faithfully replicated Woods’ original bug.