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While some people are naturally better at questing than others, anyone can 
learn to quest and be reasonably good at it.  Here are some hints to help 
improve your questing skills:

1.  Allow yourself to become immersed in what you are doing.
Quests are not just exercises in syntax guessing or routine item-checking, some
frustrated player opinions to the contrary.  The goal of a good quest is to
immerse you in an adventure and unfold a story of some depth around you, with
you as one of the main characters.  The most important thing to remember when
questing, and the only secret to having fun doing it, is that you should treat
it as you would a real life adventure.  Take time to immerse yourself in the
story, carefully explore the world it takes place in, meet the other
characters, and learn the history leading up to your role.  Also keep in mind
that the person that created this story sees things a bit differently than you
do, and that since you have a role in this story, it isn't so much like reading
a book as it is acting in a play.  The wizard isn't just the author, they are
the director.  Your best advantage is to try to understand the way they think
and would see things.  We do try to make things as intuitive as possible, but
for the basic logic of the quest you'll often get a nice boost if you try to
think like the person that wrote it, based on what you learn of them while
exploring and observing.

2.  Look at everything.
The first way to put into practice the advice above is to look around and
examine things carefully.  This is a text-based world, and the only hope you
have of seeing everything you'll need to see is to actively look around and
read descriptions.  A room's description is really just a summary; if you want
to get a better idea of what you can see, you should look at all the nouns
mentioned in that description, and then look at any specific parts of those
things that their individual descriptions mention.  Work *with* the wizard that
wrote the story you are taking part in.  A picture is worth a thousand words,
but we have only words, and a limited number of them.  The advantage is that
items can be described in much richer detail than they can in any graphical
game that isn't capable of full virtual reality.

Example:

You are perched on the branch of an old oak tree.  Before you, you see a rather
heavy wooden door adorned with both a knocker and a bell-pull.  This must be a
very opulent residence indeed.

look at branch
The branch is not very comfortable to perch on, but is certainly sturdy enough
to sustain you.

look at tree
The tree seems to be over a hundred years old, and is rather twisted and
gnarled.

look at door
The door seems to be the entrance of a residence inside the trunk of
the tree.  Attached to it are a large, brass knocker and some sort of
notice.  It is open.

look at knocker
The knocker is rather ornate, but crookedly fastened to the door.  There is a
notice posted under the knocker.

look at bell-pull
You see an elegant silken bell-pull with some sort of notice posted beneath
it.

look at notice
The notices have some crooked lettering on them that you could read.

look at residence
This residence must house someone of some importance.

3.  Read all signs, notices, lettering, etc.
If you see anything at all that looks readable, make sure you try to read it.
Lettering, books, signs, scraps of paper, flyers, etc., can all contain
valuable information and clues for you to read.  If you notice a library in
an area, be sure to look through its shelves for information.

4.  Search anything that looks searchable.
The 'search' command is basically a generic way to say 'I want to examine this
item more closely, using all of my senses'.  You should use it on anything that
looks like it might contain something or looks at all suspicious.  This
includes piles, heaps, furniture of all descriptions, containers, vegetation,
holes, walls, remains, etc.  If you look at something and see "You see
something funny or odd about the <whatever>." try searching it.  

5.  If you try something and it doesn't work, try it several times.
Just as in real life, some things will take several tries to succeed at.  For
example, if you're searching through a haystack, it might take you several
tries to find the needle in it.  Or you may have to dig quite a few times to
get through a wall.

6.  If you try something and it doesn't work, come back later and try again.
You are not the only person in this world, and other people may have disturbed
the condition of things in the area you are exploring.  You should look things
over at different times and see if you notice anything different.  Keep this in
mind with regard to monsters, too.  Some quest areas are popular killing areas
and someone may have already killed the monster holding an item you need, for
example.

7.  Check the local shops.
This should be a normal part of your exploring an area.  Not only may someone
else have killed the monster holding an item you need and sold that item to the
shop, but sometimes things a shop sells are useful in completing your task,
just like in real life.

8.  Make a map.
Making a map is another great way to get a birds-eye-view of what an area
contains and get inside the head of the person that wrote the area, as well as
helping you not get lost.  It's also the best way to make sure you don't
overlook any individual exits.  Take note of the topography as you map
(mountains, hills, desert, wires on walls, breezes, changing light intensity,
etc.) and try to get a real idea of what's around you; this can often be the
easiest way to find rooms that are hidden from normal sight.  Also make sure
you mark the location of any useful items you find so that you won't have to
remember where they are later.

Pragmatically the easiest way to map is usually to get some graph paper and
mark each room as a square.  Mark lines to adjoining squares for all the exits
when you enter a room, then connect them to the actual rooms when you enter
those rooms; this makes it obvious which exits you haven't yet taken.  Put
letters or numbers in squares for rooms that contain useful items or monsters
and keep a key along the side of the page.

9.  Don't resort to violence until you've explored other options.  
Don't kill any monsters in an area you are exploring unless you're sure that's
what you should do.  Monsters are the other characters in this story, and they
sometimes have information to give you, or can give you a useful item.  Even if
you see a monster with an item you think you need, don't kill it unless
peaceful attempts to get the item have failed, since some monsters have a way
of getting the last laugh if you just kill them to get an item they are
protecting.

However, don't be afraid to kill anything and everything if that seems to be
your best (or only remaining) option.  Killing may be the mark of a desparate
adventurer, but it is still the right option many times, and if nothing else
it's the recommended way of relieving frustration when you're stuck.  Of
course, keep in mind that solving some quests may involve doing things your
character's morality has issues with, in which case you may want to go explore
somewhere else.  No one is guaranteed that they will be able to do all the
quests.

10.  Listen/talk to monsters.
As stated above, monsters are the other characters in this story, and many have
valuable information.  Sometimes you just need to stand in the same room with
them long enough to hear all the information they have to give.  Be patient;
this may take several minutes.  Other monsters will talk to you if you talk to
them.  Start out with a greeting, like "Hello." or "What's wrong?" if they seem
upset.  Then try talking to them about topics related to the quest.  For
example, if you need to rescue a beautiful dragon from a ravening princess, you
might say "Do you know the princess?" or "Where is the dragon?" or "Have you
seen the princess's lair?"  If the monster responds, "The princess's lair is
high in the mountains," you might say, "Tell me more about the mountains."

11.  Hold on to anything that looks important.
This is somewhat self-evident, but make sure you keep a hold of anything that
might prove useful.  In fact, it's generally a good idea to hold on to anything
that you find, regardless of how useful it looks, until you know it *isn't*
useful.  To this end, be sure you have lots of bags (see the next point).  Also
pay special attention to any items which look like they may be fragile;
sometimes things are so fragile they will shatter if you try to drop them or
put them in a bag at all!

12.  Be properly prepared.
If you are going on an extended adventure into unknown, likely dangerous,
lands, it makes some sense to make sure you are prepared for the tasks you may
face.  Be sure you have adequate supplies such as light sources, fire sources,
containers, heals, and teleportation devices (in case you get stuck in a
particularly bad place with no other way out).  One of the best items you can
take when questing is a purse of holding, since if you have one of these you
can get someone to give you pretty much anything else you need once you're deep
inside the area (such as more heals).



Stepping out of the "reality" way of looking at things, there are some hints
the game itself gives you for quests:

13.  Pay attention to the "stars" rating for the quest you're working on.
Each quest has a "stars" rating based on how hard the killing required for 
the quest is.  If a quest has only one *, then you need to kill very little, 
or even nothing, to solve it.  If it has several stars, you will need to kill
more to solve it.  If you find yourself doing a lot of difficult killing on
a quest with very few stars, you're probably going about things the hard way.

14.  Pay attention to the wording of the quest description.
Often the description of a quest will tell you exactly what you need to do to
solve the quest.  If for example the description is:

"The ravening princess of the mountains has captured an innocent dragon and
intends to eat it for a bedtime snack.  Find the dragon and break its chains
to set it free."

then you know when you find the dragon, you'll need to break its chains, and
not try to find a key to unlock its chains, or find some other method of
getting it loose.  In this vein it is wise to pick up a quest book at the
retail shop, or use the web page to check the quest description often while you
are working on a quest.  Also, if any text in a book you read or speech you
hear on the quest contains things in ' marks, that's a good indication that's
the actual syntax you need to use.

15.  Don't be afraid to do some homework.
Some quests are based on popular (or obscure) books or movies, and others
simply make reference to things you've never heard of before.  It can be a good
idea to visit your local library (yes, in Real Life[tm]) or do some research on
the internet at large.  Don't believe everything you read, though; these are
adaptations of those other works, and the details won't all be the same.  If
you aren't paying attention the real book may even confuse you more.



And finally, the best advice of all...

16.  Quest with a friend.
Trying to solve a puzzle is often easier if you work on it with someone else,
not to mention a LOT more fun.  Another person may have fresh insights or a
different way of approaching the problem, and just having someone else to talk
to can break up any potential monotony or frustration.  Of course, when
questing with someone else you will need to be careful to follow the rules for
doing so.  The thing to keep in mind is simply this: you cannot give anyone
information about something you discovered about the quest when they were not
with you.  But you are encouraged to work together and share what you find on
parts of quests neither of you has any prior information about.

See also: quests.


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