Merlin: Origins

Player Rating5.83/8

"#194 overall, #8 for 2020"
based on 57 ratings since 01/02/2020
played 1,200 times (finished 63)

Story Difficulty5/8

"run through the jungle"

Play Length5/8

"Not going to lose any sleep"

Maturity Level5/8

"aren't you a little too old to be trick or treating"
Some material may be inappropriate for persons under age 13. If this were a movie, it would probably be PG-13.

Merlin Ambrosius was just an electrician working in Britain. His last job was on an archeological site doing the lighting for what was believed to be the home of Merlin the Magician. He accidentally got himself sent back in time to the days of King Arthur, where Merlin Ambrosius became the sorcerer of legend. Did he serve King Arthur well as a trusted advisor? Was he a feared but well-respected as a sorcerer? Or did he get caught trying to fool the medieval prince?

Author's Note:

This game was made for the Year's End Contest - Choose Your Own Prompt II. The theme was "8) This story has an original and sensible magic system, built from the ground up. The plot is up to you."

Magic is defined as the power to influence reality by using mysterious or supernatural forces. Rather than having characters learn to shoot fire out of their hands, my magic system is based on having limited technology in the past.

There are two main branches, which focus on different types of "magic." One caution is that some of the smaller pathways are similar, differing only by the puzzle you have to solve and ways you can fail. Also, when choosing between the "Lady of the Lake" myth or the "Sword in the Stone" myth, please note that these tales both involve Excalibur, so the story remains the same until after you make the sword of legend. After that part, these two branches have a different (second) puzzle, which can lead to various endings.

An answer guide is provided for electrical puzzles. For an added challenge, do not use it. Additionally, there is a walkthrough here if you want help finding all 12 endings. Good luck!

Special thanks to Reader82 and poison_mara for proofreading and play-testing for me. Without them, this story would have a few million more errors. Reader82 fixed most of my bad grammar, and poison_mara thought of adding the guide for the electrical puzzles.

Player Comments

An interesting premise which was well-executed.

The read itself isn't too long either (but I did not check everything, so who knows if I missed something). Further, the style lends itself well to a pretty entertaining read, and I would recommend people to give this one a shot.

I liked seeing your take on the setting, and I don't really have any complaints. I will say that I do believe that English was quite different back in those times, but this isn't really what the story is about, so I can hardly fault you for it (and it isn't like I want to read old English anyway).

I didn't find the writing to detract much from the experience, but as there were some issues, additional polish wouldn't hurt. However, this being a contest entry and thus having time constraints does make it more forgivable, but I would still advise doing at least one more pass when you have some time (but you obviously don't have to).

I feel there is enough variety with the paths, given the length, and me wanting to keep reading further is a good sign, aha. It does feel like the story could be expanded upon for some endings, but expecting an epic is unreasonable, and I think reading some other Arthurian inspired books might've clouded my judgement in this regard (as they were both longer).

A big plus of not being an epic is that the pacing isn't butchered (not that it would have to be, just that it is more likely to be). The only issue is when there is overlap in text across paths, but this is at least partially to be expected, and I don't think it is a big enough issue to warrant drastic changes. It might be worth trying to avoid in future projects, if there isn't a good reason to warrant not doing so.

So for the future, I suppose I advise trying for endings which are rather distinct from each other. I at least wonder if that would have made me like this a bit more, (but how they are now is not bad, I'm just wondering what would be something to do to improve, but perhaps that is better left for you to figure out).

I think this was a good take on the prompt, and the humour came across well for me.

Give it a read people who skip to the end!
-- Zake on 1/28/2020 4:44:43 AM with a score of 0
This was quite enjoyable, actually, and probably Shadow's best storygame to date.

I didn't use the "Medieval Electricity for Dummies" cheat sheets, and I only consulted the walkthrough to confirm there was not some longer, hidden path I hadn't uncovered. There wasn't, and I think the guides and the walkthrough might be overkill.

And to be honest, the story was much more fun without them, especially the two Excalibur branches. So yes, we are all conscientious people here and we want to get the job done right the first time, and no one wants to admit they don't understand the fundamentals of how an electromagnet works. But the alternate endings where the gadgets go awry was laugh-out-loud funny: the wrong guy pulling the sword from the stone, or someone getting electrocuted, or Arthur's reaction when the Lady in the Lake repels the sword away from him.

The plague and famine paths didn't have quite so many absurd possibilities, and these were easier to figure out. I also noticed the most continuity errors here, such as the "three-field method" being referenced as a solution to the latrine problem, for instance.

I did go into this story expecting a longer narrative with more challenging problems to solve, but basically this is a story about be a modern-day electrician trapped in the days of King Arthur, trying to impress Uther Pendragon with the impressive array of powerful batteries and miles of wiring that just *happened* to make the journey back in time with me. The fact that I've never read Twain's "A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court" or seen the movie perhaps helped my impression, as I was never inclined to make comparisons.

If I have any complaint, it's with the branching structure -- but I suspect that Shadow and I have opposing approaches on this. My stories branch like trees, with shoots leading off wherever opportunity allows, and with any one path taking its sweet time toward a conclusion that may or may not be a "win." If you were draw this structure out on a piece of paper, as I routinely do, the pattern would be organic in nature: asymmetrical and rather maze-like.

The branching structure of "Merlin: Origins," however, would look more like a snowflake: symmetrical, regular, measured -- a mathematical polygon. Each branch spreads into the same number of endings, and each is about equal in length. Many of the branches even resemble each other, with repeating elements that appear over and over.

I'm not saying that this is bad, or a detraction; I'm just pointing out the differing approaches. Recently, Shadow seemed to struggle with one of my storygames, and particularly the fact that not all branches led to a favorable outcome. However, to me the structure of "Merlin" became too recognizable as I continued reading, like I was navigating a grid. Once I learned the basic story elements, the particulars of each path became less relevant; I never doubted where I was in the story, and soon I was just picking parameters and clicking ahead to see what the outcome was.

Po-TAY-to, po-TAH-to. I enjoyed this story, and rated it a 7/8.
-- Bill_Ingersoll on 1/2/2020 10:30:04 PM with a score of 0
I was assigned to pick a story for homework and I'm glad I chose this one. It was fun and educational in a way. Thank you!
-- Grace on 8/23/2020 12:29:39 PM with a score of 0
This is a fantastic short story about telling a lie and trying not to get caught for the rest of your life. Give it a read.
-- DerPrussen on 7/16/2020 1:39:28 AM with a score of 0
There once was a storyteller named Shadow,
His words flowed like water inside a grotto,
Soon the site had caught on,
To his mischievous con,
So he shouted "Dónde está el baño?"

This is a pretty solid story, and you're absolutely going to win points from me with a creative take on a prompt. I think the strongest aspects in this one nearly all come from its comedy: the absurd hilarity of seeing Arthur and his father getting shocked and "denied" by the sword was great, and it kept me searching for all those death endings.

That whole half was excellent. Really well done.

The other half, while still serviceable, seems to suffer from rushed-itis. I'm glad I went down this path first, because it would've been far more difficult to get through if I'd read the other portion first. I'm not sure if it's that my pickiness increased due to the nature of what I was reading, but I detected far more spelling and grammatical errors on the plague/famine side as well. Of course, the reused text didn't help.

Let's end on a positive note. I find the little personable details in this story really great. The example of this that sticks out vividly in my memory is the portion where Merlin is leading the knights through the forest, and notes that he's being careful not to slip on the uneven ground. This, of course, makes me think of another path in which Merlin slips and embarrasses himself in front of the soldiers, after pretending to be some grandiose being. It's probably just me, but I found that pretty funny.

6/8, really good.
-- TheChef on 1/9/2020 3:15:22 AM with a score of 0
While it wasn't very long I enjoyed the story and the puzzles were nice. Bonus points for the play on the theme haha.
-- Killa_Robot on 1/8/2020 9:52:18 PM with a score of 0
It's a funny story for sure, and definitely occupied my time. I loved senseless murdering the knights and prince, and intentionally failing the quests was funny. However the story ended right when it was getting good. I wish I could just play around with King Arthur following his coronation.
-- 3iguy on 1/7/2020 10:32:54 PM with a score of 0
I thought this was a great game!

The choices felt like they impacted the actual story and there was a small element of knowledge that made it more engaging. It was short in terms of choices, but the text fleshed out the world and made the whole thing work.

Some minor things (SPOILERS):
Sometimes the Arthurian people spoke like modern day people. That's not the worst thing a writer could do though, and that didn't keep the occasional usage of more modern ideas pushed against ancient thought from being entertaining (like when you used spanish or 'maidens riding bulls').
One small and very specific thing: when you go down the 'curing plague' route, the page in which you are back at your house with the knights is identical to the famine route which works just fine except there's a phrase about one of the knights being excited about the three field system.

Overall though, I liked this game enough that I went through all the routes. The style, concept, and execution were all interesting and endearing.
-- bilbo on 1/5/2020 6:39:09 PM with a score of 0
I have to admit, Shadow, when I came to you to admit that I’d traveled through time, I didn’t think you’d believe me. You did an excellent job transcribing my adventures. Your prose flowed well, and you did a thorough job of describing the lore surrounding my title and the city of Camelot. Your pacing was also well-done; it definitely captured the suspense of the situation. I still can’t believe I managed to convince all of them that I was a sorcerer – to think that I’d somehow dubbed myself the famed Merlin!

Some of the readers might be surprised that I wasn’t more shocked, at the time. I suppose I was just too shaken over what had transpired. I quickly gathered my bearings. Next thing I knew, I had become the court magician for King Arthur. Your description of my adventures here ended a bit prematurely – I think your recount could have been improved if you had explained what happened after, and how I got back home.

It was the strangest thing, genuinely. I spent the next few years being a trusted advisor for him, figuring out various ways to further display my ‘magic’ to the townsfolk. What a creative idea, that was! Then one day in my quarters, I stumbled across a mysterious piece of parchment. ‘End game and leave comments’ it read, in dripping blue ink. I was utterly baffled: never had I lent anyone the key to my chambers. Arthur and his father were the only ones with free reign of the castle, and they didn’t see like the type to pull such pranks.

I rested my hand upon the parchment, and the next thing I knew, I was trapped in what I can only describe as…an empty void of space. The only item in existence was a mysterious, red button. Of course I pressed it – what else was there to do? And wouldn’t you know it, I found myself back at the familiar old archaeological site of times, right next to that old wire!

I was so shocked; I didn’t know what to do. The first thing I could think of was to inspect the equipment again, and I found myself thrown back into the ancient times! When the knights approached, I was sure that I needed to do something different from last time, to break myself out of this cycle. And so I found myself attempting to scare them off, which led to an entirely different life than the one I’d led last time. Unfortunately, it seems like I angered the villagers a little too much, and I met my premature end. Then, of course, came that glaring red button again.

When I arrived back at the hole in the clearing, I tried to avoid grabbing the wire again, I really did, but it almost seemed like some external narrator was controlling my actions. Of course I ended up back in Camelot. I tried doing everything I could – and as you’ve recounted, what I wide diversity of avenues I pursued! After several repeats of this cycle, I started to purposefully make choices that I knew would lead to ruin. Some of them were quite humorous, too! (SPOILER ALERT, for readers new to my journey: Convincing the villagers that one random knight was the King of Camelot was hilarious, as was the chant you recounted me singing after I purposefully made the Lady of the Lake attack Arthur.)

After traversing through several loops, I did come to notice that many of the events occurring grew similar. Sometimes, different courses of action led to the same end result. Perhaps time itself was forcing events to converge? I also started to notice a few internal inconsistencies in the events that transpired. (SPOILER ALERT: In one happenstance, I decided to make the Lady of the Lake reject Arthur, just for kicks. The King discovered that the Lady had only been made of wire, and yet he was still convinced I was a sorcerer? I was also surprised that he was so quick to coronate Arthur when he’d previously mentioned being worried about his son’s readiness. Then I got thrown in the dungeons, and for some reason, the guards gave me several meals of bread over the course of one evening. I was stuffed!)

During one subsequent cycle, I stumbled upon Vivianne. Ah, Vivianne. I hope she is alright. During some liftetimes, we came to care very deeply for each other. In one, I would live my entire life in Camelot, and I was happy. I had hoped that we would see each other in the afterlife – if there was one – but on my deathbed, as my heart skipped its final beat and my eyes drifted closed for the last time, I came back only to see that red button again. So many lifetimes I spent building a relationship with her, only for it all to repeat. I tried everything to break out of that cycle, to have my happy last breaths in Camelot be simply that. But it was not to be.

On that final day, I stared once again in the face of that burgundy button. And you know what I did then, don’t you, Shadow? I chose not to press it. Time passed, then – I don’t know how much, it could’ve been minutes or eons. But one day, the darkness faded, and I came back to the archaeological site. Only this time, it was being shaken awake by Dave, asking if I was okay, and why I had collapsed. The paramedics eventually came to drag me away, and I never saw that wire again. Sometimes I wonder what would happen, if I were to go back and look for it again, but I think that the past might be best left in the past.

Overall, you did an excellent job at describing my adventures. You even made use of a similar burgundy button and End Game links. I know I didn’t remember all the conversations I’d had with everyone I met, but your dialogue was so realistic, and you did such a good job of describing the world I experienced. Excellent work.

P.S.: I’m still figuring out the mechanics of this site, pretty sure I set this comment so that no one else can read it. Please don’t let anyone else know about how this is all a true story.
-- Reader82 on 1/5/2020 3:06:08 AM with a score of 0
An enjoyable read. Overall, well written.

I think walkthroughs are always appreciated on stories that utilize variables, at the very least by people like Cricket who will not relent until they have found every page. That way they can double check to make sure they didn't miss anything.

My one gripe is that some of the endings in the plague/harvest storylines basically use the same pages. I don't think there's any problem having some internal cross-over or sharing pages in the middle of the story where paths collide, but I think ending pages should be unique.
-- Bucky on 1/4/2020 11:45:07 PM with a score of 0
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