Sunday, 19 June 2016

Missed Classic 22: Robin Of Sherwood: The Touchstones of Rhiannon – Living the Legend

Written by Alex


Friends, Romans, Adventure Gamers and fellow writers, lend me your eyeballs. You have all been exceedingly patient in waiting for me to get on with this game. The issue has not been finding time to write, but finding time to play. And since this is a blog about adventure games (hint: games are things you play), this is a problem.

Work/life issues are nothing you are interested in, nor that I feel like going into great detail about here, except to say that my family and I are fine, I didn’t lose my job, I’m not getting divorced, and nobody is dead, in jail, or both (don’t ask).

With that said, I’m eager to continue sharing my play-through of Robin of Sherwood: The Touchstones of Rhiannon with you. As I said in Post 1, published about one-thousand years ago (according to the carbon dating), this is my first non-DOS game for the blog, as well as my first text adventure.

So strap on your quiver, heft your quarterstaff, and sharpen your sword for more bad jokes, inappropriate comments, and hopefully a good old-fashioned longbowing or two!

Sherwood Forest

The time covered in this post begins with Robin, recently escaped from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s dungeons with his stalwart companion Will Scarlett and the doofus Much the miller’s son, standing in Sherwood Forest with nothing but his wits (and a killer smile).

So much like I did in Conquests of the Longbow, I start wandering around and mapping, finding puzzles and getting the lay of the land. As such, I won’t give a blow-by-blow account but will instead hit the high-points and explain the contours of Rhiannon’s world before I get to the serious puzzle-solving next in the post.

Wait . . . what’s that sound?

Did somebody order a low-budget Excel map? You want one? You’ve got one!

You can see Robin’s starting position (from where you can type “GO NOTTINGHAM” and, uh, go to Nottingham. You’ll also see that the game world is bounded by infinite forest if you go too far in any direction . . . unless I’ve missed something.

One final note before we go on: In my final rating post for Conquests of the Longbow, I commented that

The setting is . . . excellent. Sherwood Forest truly feels like Robin’s haunt, with secrets that only he and his men know about. And Nottingham provides enough locations to keep the player busy. Even revisiting areas feels fresh due to the story’s changing nature. All told, medieval England is a fun place to have daring, swashbuckling adventures, even if stealing people’s clothes on Watling Street gets a little ridiculous.

Conquests of the Longbow excels in this category because the story and setting do what any good game should: it makes you feel like the character you are playing.

I know it’s unfair to compare a 1991 VGA, fully animated point-and-click adventure with a 1985 parser-driven text adventure with some graphical elements, but this is the spirit against which pretty much any game can be measured. King’s Quest I still makes the player feel like they are Sir Graham on a fantastical adventure through the world of Roberta Williams’ moon-logic just as much as the latest Final Fantasy (MMCXIII?) does. Let’s keep this framework in mind as we explore the Sherwood Forest of Touchstones of Rhiannon.

Here’s what I found while gallivanting through Sherwood Forest:

Robin’s Camp:

Not too far from the start, I found Robin’s camp. In the screenshot above you’ll notice that Little John is there as well. He isn’t there at the beginning, as you’ll see later on. There’s nothing to do so far in the camp, at least for now, but maybe it will be a place of safety in the future.

Little John:

Close to camp in a random forest screen, I found Little John. Finally! A Merry Man who is worth a damn!

“What’s happening, John?” I say, swaggering up with my winningest of smiles (you start the game with this).

“Oh, not Much,” the reply comes as John walks forward hefting a quarterstaff. “Not much, either. Say Robin, I heard a good joke the other day. Wanna hear it?”

“Do tell!” I type into the increasingly confused parser.

“Great!” says John, grinning in his massive beard. “It’s about a shaft of wood that—“


He bashes Robin’s brains out with his quarterstaff. Game over, man!

John, you traitorous son-of-a . . . how could you?

Wait a minute: When you first get to this screen, you are told that John is under a spell. Whose spell? And how does Robin know? Who cares!

There also, conveniently, happens to be a quarterstaff lying nearby. Hmm, this game gets started with the tough puzzles early . . .

I “TAKE STAFF” and “FIGHT JOHN.” Bam. You’ve got a new companion. And unlike Will and Much, who stay at camp, John follows Robin around. Cool!


Also near the camp—which is apparently the Center of the Universe for this game, I came across a picturesque waterfall (with animation!). I cannot do anything, I cannot take anything, I cannot drink anything, and I cannot swim. In fact, I see nothing outside of the waterfall’s aesthetic value. Like a dope I move on . . .

. . . until a later time when, passing through, I get the idea to type “GO WATERFALL.” Guess what happens?

That’s right! There’s a cave behind the waterfall, a classic adventure-gaming trope. This cave is the sweet, swinging bachelor pad of Herne the Hunter, dispenser of exposition and all around mysterious man of destiny. The parties he must have back here! I’m sure if I had seen the show this game was based on, I’d have known right away that he lived in a waterfall cave.

While Herne doesn’t offer anything new beyond his own previous introductory-type announcement (“FIND THE TOUCHSTONES! RETURN THEM TO THEIR RIGHTFUL PLACE!”), there’s some useful stuff in here. Albion, which is the name of a sword Robin can take. There’s also a quiver of arrows . . . and a long bow . . .

Good Lord, Robin’s rising bloodlust is making things hot in this cave! I leave before Herne realizes what he has unleashed on the good citizens of Nottingham.

I sincerely hope it looks something like this.

The Camp of the Knights Templar:

Just hanging out by a stream are some Knights Templar who haven’t yet gone off crusading. They tell Robin they have a touchstone they’ll exchange for their stolen crest. So there’s a quest right here!

Some questions:
  1. How did they get the touchstone? 
  2. Why won’t they just give it to me? 
  3. What the hell is a touchstone, anyway? 
Kirklees Abbey:

Quest two comes soon after as Robin discovers Kirklees Abbey. All alone, in the forest, this group of young, chaste women—

“Chaste? Whoa! You mean they’re, like, vir—“

Nope, no. Uh-uh. I’m not dealing with you in this game. I have one horny old longbow-toting, tights-wearing lecher to deal with as it is. I will NOT tolerate one more.

“Ladies . . .”

Oh brother . . .

I “KNOCK DOOR,” and a nun answers. It turns out that they also have a touchstone, and will give it to Robin for 400 gold pieces. You’d figure Robin could just, I don’t know, show off his longbow a little bit and—

Alright, alright! I can take a hint.

Leaford Grange:

Close to the Abbey is Leaford Grange. If you recall from last post, this is where Maid Marion told Robin her family is from.

I can do nothing here, nor can I interact with the nearby guards. Next!

Gregory the Tax Collector:

South of the Grange, at seemingly random screens, Gregory the Tax Collector appears with his horse, his cart, and his sacks of grain.

A tax collector . . . in a Robin Hood game . . .

When I first stumbled upon Gregory, I didn’t have the sword Albion or my bow, only the quarterstaff. I wasn’t able to accomplish anything, and he left after a few commands anyway. When I found him again, I did have the sword, but robbing or trying to kill him didn’t work.

You sure about that, game?

I did get it in my mind to “SEARCH GRAIN,” whereupon I found a sack of 200 gold coins. Score!

He leaves, then, and his horse runs off to Nottingham. I don’t yet know if this is significant, but I have some ideas.

So halfway to getting the nuns’ touchstone. Maybe if I find Gregory again, I can rob him a second time.

Simon de Belleme’s Castle:

Over on the eastern side of Sherwood I find some sand flats and a castle belonging to somebody named Simon de Belleme. A quick Internet search reveals that, in the show that this game was based upon, Simon is “a nobleman and sorcerer who served the Devil.” I have a great feeling about this!

Simon’s foyer is nice. There’s a door and a statue of Azael. I know of an Azazel, a biblical demon mentioned in the Book of Enoch, but this seems close enough.

Like I said, I have a great feeling about this Simon chap!

I can’t do anything with the statue, so I go through the door.

I did not expect this.


As mentioned previously, you can go back to Nottingham. There’s an archery contest going on! Good thing I have my longbow!

I type “ENTER CONTEST” and win! The Sheriff tosses me a silver arrow, but then guards pour out and the portcullis closes. I pick up the arrow and try my best to get out of the castle alive.

Every door I go into turns into a deathtrap, with the dastardly Guy de Gisbourne and his men surrounding Robin and turning him into a ex-outlaw. I’m obviously missing something here. I’ll have to come back later.

Wickham Village:

My last stop on the Tour du Sherwood is the quaint hamlet of Wickham on the forest’s western-edge, near the Templar’s camp. There’s nothing to do except go to the large tree to the west.

I guess this is similar to the sacred willow grove in Conquests of the Longbow, but since I’m probably getting bored with all of these comparisons to that game, you are too, so let’s knock it off and see what’s here.

I can’t “PRAY” or “TALK” to the tree, but I can “CLIMB” it.

There are no graphics up there, but I type “LOOK TREE” and Robin finds a touchstone!

“That’s mine!”

Come and take it, my fair lady! Rawwr!”

Yikes! I’m out of here.

But before I do, can somebody please tell me:


Session Playtime: 2 hours, 20 minutes.
Total Playtime: 3 hours, 20 minutes.

Inventory: Quarterstaff, long bow, quiver of arrows, 200 gold pieces, one touchstone.

On a scale of Daffy Duck to Errol Flynn, how much do I feel like Robin Hood?: Cary Elwes


  1. I'm a big fan of Cary Elews, so... I assume you are enjoying it very much?

    On an unrelated note, a few years back I was active with a "geek and the bible" blog (non-devotional, more like lit. crit.) and I wrote a nice summary of the various Azazel legends. If you like (and want to see me write about something other than games), please check it out:

    And isn't a Touchstone that sound you hear when you pick up the receiver on an old land-line?

    1. I agree that Cary Elwes is on the upper end of the Robin Hood spectrum.

    2. @Joe

      Yes, I am enjoying this game very much! It's making me use my noodle.

      And I'll check out your post about Azazel . . . but does it have spoilers for this game you somehow knew I'd be playing way back in 2011?

  2. "A touchstone is a small tablet of dark stone such as fieldstone, slate, or lydite, used for assaying precious metal alloys. It has a finely grained surface on which soft metals leave a visible trace." (Wikipedia)

    Going through similarities with the series:

    Kirklees Abbey: Not that important place in the series, but Marion was to be taken there, so that church could get the lands her late father had owned.

    Baron de Belleme: A nobleman who went to the Holy Land and came back as a devil worshiper. He serves Azael (so the game is not alone in using that form), who tells Belleme to deal with "Herne's son" (Robin) by sacrificing an innocent maiden. If someone hadn't ruined the original soundtrack with some German heavy metal (and if it wouldn't spoil you on how to deal with Belleme), I might recommend this video:

    Little John: Enchanted by Belleme. In the series, it was not enough to just beat him, but Robin has to wash away a pentagram from his chest.

    Archery contest: Sheriff of Nottingham held a shooting contest and lured Robin with Herne's Silver Arrow, a magical object, which was originally guarded by Robin's father, before sheriff killed him. Baron de Belleme also wanted the arrow and sent his magically enhanced assassin to beat the contest, but then Robin did the classical "split the arrow" - move. Sheriff knew at once that this must be the recent outlaw and commanded his men to kill him, but... I think I won't spoil the solution for you, but looking at a walkthrough, parser might be a bit awkward here, so here's a coded hint: Lbh pna TRG naq pneel nebhaq crbcyr va guvf tnzr.

    1. Oh yes, Wickham, that's pretty much the one village with people brave enough to hide the outlaw from time to time (perhaps that's because their leader is Boba Fett). Among the important denizens is Little John's lady friend, Meg of Wickham, with the worst joke in the series history ("so THAT's why they call you Little John!").

    2. Ilmari,

      I kind of feel I have no choice but to watch this series when I'm done with the game!

    3. And thanks for that hint!

  3. "That's beyond your power" is an interesting choice for an error message.

  4. You've got to admit that Little John's joke is pretty good though. I mean, if anyone else were watching they'd have laughed pretty hard.

    If Nethack has taught me anything, a touchstone is used to determine whether or not a gem is an actual precious item or useless glass, so I'll agree with Ilmari.

  5. "Why won’t they just give it to me?"

    Remember that Templars are a religious order. Giving a pagan object of worship to a known outlaw, who will probably use the object in some devious pagan rituals, would be just blasphemy to these guys. Good luck that they've lost their own holy item, so we can at least trade.

    In the series, Robin meets these guys in episode four. A common thief has stolen their crest and accidentally runs into the hideout of Merry Men. Templars think Robin Hood has something to do with the thief, kidnap the weak link (AKA Much) and ask Robin kindly to bring back their crest or [insert your favourite way to torture Much]. Unfortunately, sheriff has captured the real thief and has the precious crest and getting it will be impossible since "You can't get into Nottingham Castle".

  6. I would think if a time traveller left a tablet or smartphone in medieval times the locals would refer to it as a 'touchstone' then pray to various gods for forgiveness after the battery runs out and it no longer shows pictures