Missed Classic 22: Robin of Sherwood: The Touchstones of Rhiannon (1985) - Introduction

Written by Alex

Yes indeed, here we are. Another Robin Hood game, and my first Missed Classic for The Adventure Gamer. Yeah! After I played and reviewed 1991’s excellent Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood, fellow TAG writer Joe Pranevich threw down the gauntlet and challenged me to play The Touchstones of Rhiannon. And like a dumb-dumb, which should come as no surprise to anybody reading this blog, I accepted. So if it turns out that this is a great game, thanks Joe! And if it turns out to be a horrible one . . . thanks Joe!

So . . . The Touchstones of Rhiannon . . . . For starters, don’t make the same mistake I did. This is not Rhiannon:

This is Rihanna, which initially got me really excited to play this game. But alas. A “Rhiannon” is actually the name of a prominent figure in Celtic mythology. It’s also a Fleetwood Mac song you’ve probably heard even if you don’t recognize the name. Who said computer games don’t teach you anything? My parents, that’s who!

That said, my extensive research has lead me to the conclusion that The Touchstones of Rhiannon is either about the mythical Rhiannon’s magical telephone, or is based on a British TV series that ran between 1984 and 1986. Here’s the synopsis of the series according to the Internet Movie Database:

“Robin of Loxley is chosen by the mystical Herne the Hunter to become his 'son' and champion the oppressed. Gathering a band of comrades around him he fights a guerilla campaign against their Norman dictators, particularly the Sheriff of Nottingham and his deputy, Guy de Gisburne. Later he is succeeded by Robert of Huntingdon, renegade nobleman. This retelling of the legend introduces a strong fantasy element, with black magic and the old religion.”

So this should be similar to Conquests of the Longbow in that there are magical and supernatural elements mixed in with the historical fiction and familiar characters like the wicked Sheriff and the venal Guy. Sounds interesting. Looking back at my Longbow posts, because I’m vain like that, I see that commenter and adventure game legend Cory Cole, as well as TAG writer and legend in his own right Ilmari, both brought this TV series up as a possible influence on Conquests of the Longbow designer Christy Marx (read our interview with Christy here). See? We’re really on top of things here at The Adventure Gamer. Never doubt us.

Well, sometimes doubt us.

The Touchstones of Rhiannon is also the first (mostly) text adventure for me on this blog, as well as my first non-DOS game. So bear with me if I am not used to some of the tropes and parser issues I may encounter.

The Designers

The Touchstones of Rhiannon was designed by the soon-to-be-interviewed Mike Woodroffe and Brian Howarth of Adventure International, first for the Spectrum 48K (with graphics!). However, I am playing the Commodore 64 version, as I was not able to find a Spectrum emulator that worked.

Okay, you got me. I just couldn’t figure out how to use it, but VICE, the C64 emulator, is working just fine.

Let’s Get This Adventure Started

The game starts off in medias res, with Robin stuck in a deep, dark dungeon with his companions Will Scarlet and . . .

No . . .

Oh, dear God no . . .

“Well hey boss! Looks like we’re gonna be spending lots of time together! I’ve got some ideas about how to get out of this dungeon! Wanna hear them?”

Joe! What have you done to me?!

Alright, no sense in getting all bent out of shape. First things first: I can’t think straight. I need to do something to make my stay in this dungeon of despair a little more tolerable.

“Nothing special.” I’ll say.

Oh, I don’t know. Maybe Much and I could talk about WILD BOARS.

Dammit game, no! It’s never pointless to kill much!

Right off the bat, I’m stuck at the first puzzle: Getting rid of Much the Miller’s son. Let me check the manual to see if I’m missing anything.

Great! In addition to getting a bit more of the story, I learn that I should try to “strangle” Much.

Nobody understands . . .

Alright, I’ll have to deal with Much and just get the hell out of here.

Escaping the Cell

This is actually a pretty cool puzzle, and made me realize why so many people like these text adventures.

Examining the grate reveals that it’s twelve feet off the ground, way too high for Robin to reach. Talking to the prisoners reveals that “To escape the guard will have to be killed.” Bloodthirsty lot they are, but they are correct. But in order to kill that guard, I have to reach him.

Will and Much are useless in this endeavor (surprise surprise), but I can STAND PRISONER to clamber on their shoulders and reach the grating. Thanks you anonymous, faceless prisoners! When my own men fail me, I can count on you! If we ever get out alive, I’ll never forget your spirit and generosity!

Every few turns, the guard sits on a chair about ten feet away, gets up, starts pacing, and returns to his chair. The prisoners will get tired and collapse after a while, requiring Robin to STAND on them again, but examining the guard enough times reveals that his ankle is close enough to grab. Like the ankle-biter he is, Robin GRABs it. The guard falls, getting winded in the process. If you take too long after this, the guard runs off to fetch Guy de Gisburne, but I’m quick like a real OUTLAW, so I strangle the son of a bitch.

Quite with what I strangled him, I’m not sure. I’m guessing my bare hands, but they’re sticking through a grate with presumably small, not-quite hand-sized openings on account of it being there to keep prisoners secure. Suppose the guard fell at just the right spot for his throat to be somewhere near his ankle (?), and I think I’m not dealing with any ordinary guard, but the Mr. Fantastic of medieval grunts.

That’s right. I worked Mr. Fantastic into a post about Robin Hood. You’re welcome.

The guard has a sword, which Robin takes and uses to knock the bolt off of the grating. He’s free! And finally, finally, we see a different screenshot!

In all of this excitement, though, Robin drops the sword, probably impaling one of those saps who helped him get out in the first place and leaving him, Much, and Will Scarlet totally defenseless.

That’s right. Robin. Our hero. Dropped the sword. In his excitement. There’s a joke here somewhere, but I’m too stunned to make it. Errol Flynn never would have done this! He’d have gotten all of the prisoners pregnant, maybe, even the male ones, but he would have held on to his sword until the end.

No wonder they look so happy!

You’ll also notice from the screenshot up there that Much and Will made the trip out of the cell with Robin, but those other prisoners—you know, the ones that actually helped Robin escape?—remain in the dungeon to rot. So long, suckers! Been nice knowing you! The three Merry Men leave the guardroom and find themselves in the castle courtyard, with nary a guilty feeling for the fate of those miserable losers who shall forever remain trapped in the Sheriff’s stinky cell to await God-knows-what foul and sadistic torments.

Our hero, ladies and gentlemen.

Leaving the Castle

Here’s where things get fun: Mapping and puzzle-solving. Being an old-school adventure game, this means lots of trial and error.

Instead of going step-by-step through what I did, I’ll show you my map and point out the highlights of Robin’s daring, dashing escape.

  • The Courtyard gate closes if you try to go through it. However, Much and Will escape, so Robin’s on his own.
  • There are no puzzles really, save for the fact that going into the Great Hall results in death. You only learn this by going LEFT at the Courtyard. It’s a cheap adventure game death, but par for the course so I can’t get too mad about it. Thank God for save states!
  • Going down the Staircase also takes you to the Great Hall and Robin’s eventual doom.
  • The final death I discovered was going out the window in the Bedroom to the left of the first Staircase. The game warns Robin that there are guards down there, but does he listen?
  • There is a Treasure Chest in that same bedroom, but if there’s a way to open it, I haven’t found it yet.

  • The last room of note is the Bedroom to the RIGHT of the Staircase. Maid Marion (the game’s spelling, not mine) is waiting on the bed.

She won’t go with Robin, she doesn’t give him anything (AN ITEM! I’M TALKING ABOUT AN ITEM!) but she does impart some valuable wisdom: “Never lose your grip on your sword.”

Okay, I made that up. She gives Robin a little family history.

Nothing left to do but defenestrate yourself and land smack dab in the middle of Sherwood Forest.

While out there, Herne the Hunter appears to conveniently give Robin some plot:


And with that, Herne leaves Robin in the middle of the forest, charged to find the six Touchstones of Rhiannon (whatever those are) and return them to their rightful home (wherever that is) for . . . why exactly is Robin doing this again.

It doesn’t matter. Adventure games, like pornography, just need some plot. That’s not why we play these things.

He said it; I didn’t!

In the forest, there are exists to the North, East, West, and South. I smell mapping. Either that, or Much is nearby. This is as good a place as any to stop this post. Stay tuned for Robin’s continuing search for the Touchstones of Rhiannon!
“Bitch better have my touchstones!”

Session Playtime: 1 hour.
Total Playtime: 1 hour.


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