A Detail of a Norse Boar's Head Carving from Maughold Churchyard on the Isle of Man (Image Credit: Fee and Zoller 2000)
English 401: Viking Studies
The Medieval North Atlantic
A Reversed Detail of a Norse Boar's Head Carving from Maughold Churchyard on the Isle of Man (Image Credit: Fee and Zoller 2000)

Useful Course Materials  
The Sanctuary Knocker at Durham Cathedral; the bones of St. Cuthbert sought Sanctuary here as a result of the rampages of the Vikings! (Image Credit: Fee, Hannon, and Zoller 1999)


Old Norse Exercises

Language Exercise One: Assigned in Week Two—Due in Class Week Three

Language Exercise Two: Assigned in Week Three—Due in Class Week Four

Old Icelandic Indefinite Noun Phrase Exercise: Assigned in Week Three—Due in Class Week Four

Language Exercise Three: Assigned in Week Four—Due in Class Week Five

Old Icelandic Definite Noun Phrase Exercise: Assigned in Week Four—Due in Class Week Five

Language Exercise Four: Assigned in Week Five—Due in Class Week Six

Old Icelandic Syncope Exercise: Assigned in Week Five—Due in Class Week Six

Language Exercise Five: Assigned in Week Six—Due in Class Week Seven

Old Icelandic Post-Positioned Definite Article Exercise: Assigned in Week Six—Due in Class Week Seven

Language Exercise Six: Assigned in Week Seven—Due in Class Week Eight

Interactive Fiction (IF) Tools and Resources

Play an IF Adventure Game set in the Ancient and Medieval North Atlantic

Design your own IF Game

Explore the Sites and Sagas of the Ancient and Medieval North Atlantic through one of Settings of The Secret of Otter's Ransom IF Adventure Game:

The earliest version of the Otter's Ransom game was designed to be extremely simple, and to illustrate the pedagogical aims of the project as well as the ease of composing with Inform 7 software: In this iteration the game contains no graphics or links, utilizes very little in the way of software functions, tricks, or "bells and whistles," and contains a number of rooms in each of sixteen different game settings; as the project progresses, more rooms, objects and situations will be added by the students and instructor of English 401, as well as appropriate "bells and whistles" and relevant links to pertinent multimedia objects from the Medieval North Atlantic project.

Using simple, plain English commands such as "go east," "take spear-head," "look at sign" and "open door" to navigate, the player may move through each game setting; moreover, as a by-product of playing the game successfully, a player concurrently may learn a great deal about a number of specific historical sites, as well as about such overarching themes as the history of Viking raids on monasteries, the character of several of the main Norse gods, and the volatile mix of paganism and Christianity in Viking Britain. The earliest form of the game is open-ended in each of the sixteen settings, but eventually the complete "meta-game" of The Secret of Otter's Ransom will end when the player gathers the necessary magical knowledge to break an ancient curse, which concurrently will require that player to piece together enough historical and cultural information to pass an exit quiz.

Play all-text versions of the site games from The Secret of Otter's Ransom using the Frotz game-playing software.

Play versions of the site games which include relevant images using the Windows Glulxe game-playing software.

In order to view images the player must "take" them, as in "take inscription;" very large images may come up as "[MORE]" which indicates that text will scroll off the screen when the image is displayed. Simply hit the return key once or twice and the image will be displayed.

We hope that you will enjoy engaging in adventure-style exploration of Viking sites and objects from the Ancient and Medieval North Atlantic!

Start by saving one of the following modules onto your desktop; next click the above game-playing software. When you try to open the Frotz software (you may have to click "Run" twice) your computer will ask you to select which game you'd like to play; simply select the module on your desktop to begin your adventure; you may have to search for "All Files." Each game setting includes a short paragraph describing tips, traps, and techniques of playing:

Andreas Ragnarok Cross

Balladoole Ship Burial

Braaid Farmstead

Broch of Gurness

Brough of Birsay Settlement

Brussels Cross

Chesters Roman Fort

Cronk ny Merriu Fortlet

Cunningsburgh Quarry

Helgafell Settlement

Hvamm Settlement

Hadrian's Wall

Jarlshof Settlement

Knock y Doonee Ship Burial

Laugar Hot Spring

Lindisfarne Priory

Maes Howe Chambered Cairn

Maughold - Go for a Wild Ride

Maughold- Look for the Sign of the Boar's Head

Maughold - The Secret of the Otter Stone

Mousa Broch

Ring of Brodgar

Rushen Abbey Christian Lady

Ruthwell Cross

Shetland Magical Adventure

Skara Brae

Stones of Stenness

Sullom Voe Portage

Tap O’Noth Hillfort

Temple of Mithras at Carrawburgh

Ting Wall Holm Assembly Place

Tynwald Assembly Place

Yell Boat Burial

Andreas Ragnarok Cross:

This game is designed for players to navigate easily and to act within the world of the Vikings of the Isle of Man. Generally, the last few lines of text in each room or encounter will provide useful hints. For instance, the following text appears within the game: “You also see a large battle axe that has assured many men their place in Valhalla. A Viking should never be without a weapon.” Here players should take up the axe by typing in the command “take battle axe.” If a cardinal direction is explicitly mentioned within the text, players should take note and move in this direction by typing in a command such as “go west” or “go south.” In order to view images the player must "take" them, as in "take inscription;" very large images may come up as "[MORE]" which indicates that text will scroll off the screen when the image is displayed. Simply hit the return key once or twice and the image will be displayed. This is not an overly complex module, so be aware that the game will not continue in a desired manner if players fail to move in the proper direction or to take the proper action. Otherwise, enjoy your time playing as Manx Viking:

Andreas Ragnarok Cross

Andreas Ragnarok Cross with Images


Balladoole Ship Burial:

Playing Interactive Fiction games can be quite tricky because you need to use very simple commands. Once you understand that you need to be simple the game becomes easy. You must carefully read each paragraph or phrase that comes before in the game. It can be fairly easy if the creator of the game gives you specific instructions of where to go next. For my game, I give you instructions of where to go next and for the most part, what to do next, so it is fairly easy. Overall, it is pretty straightforward and you should be able to figure out my game based on the instructions I give you. Good luck playing and have fun:

Balladoole Ship Burial

Braaid Farmstead:

Braaid is a settlement site on the Isle of Man.  It used to be a group of 3 buildings but now all that is left are its ruins.  Have fun navigating around and exploring the site through this interactive fiction.  When playing, pay close attention to the clues about what direction to go.  Sometimes the hints appear and you must remember them for after you finish examining structures and objects.  Commands include go 'direction', look at 'object', take 'object', sit 'location', and get off 'location'.  The game is over when a magical stone has been taken:

Braaid Farmstead

Broch of Gurness:

Broch of Gurness with Images


Brough of Birsay Settlement:

The Brough of Birsay game is pretty simple to play. You should listen to the directions written out for you to follow: if you go to a place that is different from the directions, you will mess up the chronology of the game. In order to get to the Hall-House, the Church, and the Stone symbol, you must travel from the "Brough of Birsay;" for example, if you are west of the Brough of Birsay at the Hall-House and you want to get to the Stone symbol, you must go east to get back to the Brough, and then go east again to get to the Stone symbol. So please follow the directions! On another note, please look at all objects and things; it will help you to figure out if you need them or not. You will win the game once you have collected all four of the relics hidden around the Brough:

Brough of Birsay Settlement

Chesters Roman Fort:

Chesters Roman Fort with Images


Cronk ny Merriu:

In order to navigate the Cronk ny Merriu game, read the text carefully for cardinal directions (north, south, etc.) and use these directional hints along with the command “go.” When presented with an object or an option, use the “take” command followed by the precise name of the object or option. Occasionally, you will be prompted to look at something. In this case, use the “look” command followed by the precise name of the thing you are looking at, i.e. “look at stone”. Read the text carefully for hints on the actions you are to take. They are not always obvious. If you choose an option which leads to your demise, simply choose a different option to continue playing the game.

Cronk ny Merriu

Cunningsburgh Quarry

Cunningsburgh Quarry with Images


Hadrian's Wall:

Welcome to the Hadrian’s Wall Interactive Fiction.  You will be able to explore Hadrian’s Wall, and more specifically, the Roman fort of Birdoswald.  Before embarking on your journey, please take note of the status bar at the top of your screen.  On the left-hand side is the time of day in-game as well as your location; on the right is the compass.  N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW all refer to the cardinal and ordinal directions, “North”, “Northeast”, and so on.  I and O stand for “Inside” and “Outside.”  Pay close attention to the compass in order to determine your next move.  Make sure that you read the descriptions carefully because they will contain clues to what action is required of you.  Generally, the last few lines of text in each room will provide useful hints.  Use simple commands and try to match your wording to the hints given in the text.  Examples of commands you might use are: “take,” “walk,” “go,” “ask,” and “listen.”  Enjoy exploring Hadrian’s Wall at Birdoswald and have fun!

Hadrian's Wall with Images


Helgafell Settlement

Helgafell Settlement with Images


Jarlshof Settlement:

Before you get started, we would like to offer some tips that might help you out. To navigate the game use commands such as go/walk/run with simple compass directions. An example would be, “go north.” The text in the game will usually indicate what direction you should head in next. Read carefully! If there are doors, you need to open them before you can go through them. Once you are in a room, feel free to interact with any of the objects there. Examples of commands you might use include: “take, look, sit, etc.” If you don’t know what something is, “look” at it! Good luck and have fun:

Jarlshof Settlement

Jarlshof Settlement with Images


Knock y Doonee Ship Burial:

The game text of Knock y Doonee provides adequate prompts for the player. Be sure to pay attention to the game text or else these prompts will be missed. The words “look,” “take,” and cardinal directions appear throughout the game text, hinting at what the player should type into the game. If the game text says “Maybe you should head north…” then the player should type “north.” It is not necessary to type “go north,” “walk north,” or “run north,” but these additional words may be used with the directions if desired by the player. When using “look” and “take” be sure to include the name of what is being looked at or taken. For example, if the player is prompted to look at a pamphlet he or she should type in “look at pamphlet.” If the item being investigated has a longer name such as “ogham stone” the word “stone” may be used in the phrase. As long as the player reads the game text in its entirety he or she should be able to embark upon the riveting journey found in Knock y Doonee:

Knockadoone Ship Burial

Laugar Hot Spring

Laugar Hot Spring with Images


Lindisfarne Priory:

Welcome to the twilight of the eighth century: the dawn of the Viking age! You will begin this game by commanding a long ship, with your trusted lieutenant, Thorfinn the Wise. Your objective in this game is to accumulate as many commodities as possible that could be used for wealth in the eighth century North Atlantic; these may present themselves as concubines, slaves, gold and other treasures. As you take these items, they will be stored in your ship until you complete your raid. While playing the game, navigate using cardinal directions. You may "take" or "kill" a person; the rules in the software have been reconfigured to accommodate Viking sentiment. Above all, make certain to expand your retinue and gain fame. This can be done by discovering items which are given to your crew, or by accumulating slaves and putting the rest to the sword. Drink off a hearty horn of mead and sharpen your axe; the spirit of Odin calls:

Lindisfarne Priory


Maes Howe Chambered Cairn:

The best advice I can give when playing this game is to pay attention to the details.  This is merely for the purpose of function—if something seems similar to another thing, such as fires, doors, and swords, chances are the specific names given to them, such as “Chamber-Fire,” “Ash Door,” or “Short-Sword,” are crucial to the function of the game. Are there hyphens? No hyphens? It matters. Are you drinking from a “cup” or “mug?” It matters. It is a good idea to interact with as much as you can—sometimes you’re not given anything in particular, but most actions to move forward in the game are hidden within your interaction with objects.  For example, if you don’t look at, take, or touch (etc.) a certain object, you won’t know what to do or where to go next.  Although even the simplest actions are needed to move forward, it’s not difficult as most of the time plain directions are given to you in the text; you only need to read. If you find you don’t know where to go next, or what to do, re-read the text you’ve just gotten through and chances are there’s a hint within. Keep an eye out for key words such as “examine,” or geographical directions. With this in mind, you should have no problem navigating this game, getting from beginning to end, and hopefully being entertained even if you’re not getting each step immediately, but trying out different commands with different objects, looking for the one that’s going to move you along. Holes and openings can be gone “through,” whereas doors must often be “opened” before being entered. Based on the prompt in the text, you should be able to figure out what objects need to be taken or not, which characters might need attacking. To move along, you can “walk” or “go” in the relevant direction:

Maes Howe Burial Mound

Maughold - Go for a Wild Ride:

In this game, you are an apprentice of Gaut, the leading stonecutter on the Isle of Man.  It is the year 950 AD, and as Gaut’s era of fame draws to an end, it is your job to carry on this tradition of stonecutting.  Your work carries you to the parish of Maughold, but first, you must demonstrate your abilities to Gaut and prove your skills at engraving cross-slabs.  Gaut will leave you with three tasks, each of which must be completed in order to win the game and lay claim to your rightful position as stonecutter on Man. In your first task, you will have to construct a cross-slab that will memorialize the arrival of the Bishop Roolwer on Man in the year 1060 AD.  As you play the game, follow the prompts that are provided in the text.  In order to talk with certain people, you must “look” at them.  In the same manner, you must “look” at objects in the workshop in order to read their descriptions. Once you begin constructing your cross-slab, you will use a Guide Book that will provide you with instructions.  In order to engrave images on your cross-slab, you will have to answer a series of questions throughout the game.  Each question is accompanied by a choice of three answers.  In order to select your answer, you must “take” the choice.  For example, if you want to choose Choice A, you will “take Choice A”. You may look at objects in the workshop whenever you like.  However, be sure to complete the steps in the Guide Book in order.  It is possible to cheat the system and select steps out of turn; however, you wouldn’t want to be a cheater, now would you?  Gaut would probably not approve of that. Good luck:

Maughold Wild Ride

Maughold Wild Ride with Images  


Maughold - Look for the Sign of the Boar's Head:

My game is fairly simple in its conception.  The game play is relatively easy to follow.  Much of the game involves looking at things in the room to continue the story.  The text comes out and tells you what to do, and in what order to do it in.  If you get lost, that means you were too eager and missed a direction stated in the text.  I separated the final line of each chunk of typing to lay out concretely the next step that you should take as a player. My game is the second of three that take place at Maughold, on the Isle of Man.  It tells a story of the second task you must complete, but you seem to not remember anything, so a ghost is there to guide you, along with other objects in the game.  If you follow all the instructions you should arrive at the Victory Portal where you will be reunited with your friend, the ghost.  If all goes as it should, you will have completed your task, and then you might even get some sleep:

Maughold Boar's Head

Maughold Boar's Head with Images


Maughold - The Secret of the Sigurd Stone:

In this game, you are an apprentice of the master stone-cutter, Gaut.  You should have just completed the second task that Gaut has given you on the road to becoming a master stone-cutter yourself.  In the game it has been some time since you last were given a task and you have had time to spend with the monks at Maughold.  You are now Christian and have almost completely forgotten about your last task!  But don’t worry; that won’t last long and you have more adventures with powerful figures and forces ahead of you. First, in this game, you must navigate through the church and surrounding lands of the monastery at Maughold.  Then, you are transported to another land and time where you will experience first hand a story the gods themselves have entrusted to you to carve into a stone cross. While playing, remember to look for clues in the text for the direction in which you should go (only the cardinal directions and up or down in this one).  You may be prompted to pick up something or take something as well as slightly more complicated actions.  When prompted to make an action other than “going” consider the wording of the text before phrasing what you input, it is important for easier playing of the game.  Also, when prompted to speak to someone about something, you may only use the phrase pattern, “ask/tell [someone] about [noun/verb-ing]” otherwise, it will not work.  Careful reading and decision-making is key to enjoying this game as much as possible.  Good luck and have fun:

Maughold Sigurd Stone

Maughold Sigurd Stone with Images


Mousa Broch:

Welcome to the Broch of Mousa! In this game, you will be able to explore the rooms of the Broch of Mousa in order to gain a deeper understanding of its form and functions. Your objective is to gather information. You will want to pay careful attention to the wording of the game to obtain your directions. If the commands you give are not working, you may want to try to think of synonyms for the word you believe is correct. Along the way, you will meet with one man and three women. You must complete a task for this man and listen to the stories of two women. As you complete these mini missions, you will be awarded a sword, a shield and a club. After that, you will try to conquer the evil Earl Harland so that Erlend and his lover Margaret (Earl Harland’s mother!) will be able to reside in the tower peacefully. If you do not succeed, you will be trapped as the new guide for the Broch of Mousa and the beautiful woman will be freed forever! If you complete these assignments successfully, you will be able to return to the present day. Best of luck!

Mousa Broch with Images


Ring of Brodgar:

Take a terrifying adventure from comfortable, cozy Gettysburg to the heart of Orkney Island!  Mingle with a local Orcadian, learn the purpose of the standing stones which encompass the Ring of Brodgar and avoid a fairy and his sharp fairy dart!  While the text will give you clues as to which direction you should travel and which action you should complete, be sure to listen to the wise words of the Orcadian; be honest with him, or you’ll be doomed to spend all of eternity on a grassy knoll!  While in Gettysburg, be kind and charitable; do not give in to gluttony, sloth or other worldly temptations and don’t forget your environmental responsibilities.  While on Orkney Island, be respectful to those you meet and kind to other inhabitants.  Gettysburg College’s campus has never seemed so wonderful—but will you ever make it home?

Ring of Brodgar with Images


Rushen Abbey Christian Lady:

Hello game player! Thank you for your interest in my game. While the concept of grave-robbing and moving a chatty corpse may seem a little difficult to grasp, if not downright sick, I promise that playing the game will not be as obscure, although it may be as weird! Here are two tips that may be useful: 1) Anytime you see key words such as “examine” or “look at” at the end of the description, that is a pretty big hint that you should type “examine ____” (the blank representing the object/place you should investigate). 2) Anytime you see a direction describing an object/place at the end of the description (e.g. north of you is a river) that is your hint to type “go ____”; the blank representing the cardinal direction mentioned.The rest of the game is pretty straightforward. I hope you enjoy playing “The Christian Lady of Rushen Abbey”:

Rushen Grave Site

Shetland Magical Adventure:

This game carries the adventurer through the island of Shetland.  The objective is to hit the three destination points – the Underhoull, Jarlshof, and Cunningsburgh – and to collect any relics found along the way.  The text will give clues as to which direction you need to go, and simple commands such as “go west” or “go east” will take you to the next steps and scenes.  Be adventurous and don’t be afraid to explore different directions. When you come across relics, you should say “take---” in order to remove the object from the play.  You will then carry the object with you until the end of the play.  You can always backtrack to return to where you started, or if you need to use the same locations as jumping points for exploring other directions.  Be sure to “take” all objects you come across, as they will ensure your safe return to the Underhoull at the end of the game, where your plane is waiting to take you home.  Good luck:

Shetland Magical Adventure

Skara Brae:

You are an exploring Scotland 5000 years ago along with your partner, Merlyn. As you come to the village of Skara Brae, remember that they are a nonviolent community, so be sure to keep your eyes open for anything that might come in handy in the event of an attack. Also, remember that the villagers are very focused on community and family life. Do all that you can to help them as you learn about their everyday activities, as it will help you to become more accepted into their society. There are a few surprises along the way, so choose your paths and actions carefully. Good luck!

Skara Brae with Images


Stones of Stenness:

This game, chronicling a supernatural visit to the Stones of Stenness in the Orkney Islands, is fairly straightforward. There is a compass located in the upper right corner of the game screen which, when the instructions are not spelled right out for you, will give you an idea of what direction to go next. There are rarely multiple choices. Make sure to read the text carefully because it will often hint at what step you should take next. Look for simple works – such as ‘take’, ‘look’, or ‘go’ and use those to move the story along. The commands are generally implied or spelled right out to help you decide your next move. Hope you enjoy visiting the Stones of Stenness and chatting with aliens, large standing stones and magical, mysterious men!

Stones of Stenness with Images


Sullom Voe Portage:

Hello, and welcome to the Sullom Voe Interactive Fiction Project! Whether you’re new to interactive fiction or are an old salt, you’ll find something to enjoy as you lose yourself in the harsh, mysterious world of Norse seafaring! Throughout this adventure, you’ll find yourself face-to-face with wily Gods, salty captains, gritty mariners, and even some surprises from beyond the grave! You’ll need to keep your wits about you to survive your trip into the hardened world of the Norse. Here are some tips to keep in mind…they may save your life! The game itself is text-based and uses three core verbs or commands: “Look,” “Take,” and “Go.” To move the action forwards, read the prompts carefully. They drop hints as to the appropriate actions in a given situation. Sometimes, to progress through the game, you’ll need to look at an object, take an object, or go in a given direction. The prompts help by mentioning either an object (cueing you to “look at_____” or “take_____”). If you encounter a cardinal direction, use the go command to go in your desired direction. Remember, every action in this game has consequences in the story, so choose wisely! Enjoy your stay at Sullom Voe: 

Sullom Voe Portage

Tap O’Noth Hillfort:

Tap O’Noth Hillfort with Images


Temple of Mithras at Carrawburgh:

Temple of Mithras at Carrawburgh


Ting Wall Holm Assembly Place:

This game is not too difficult, but there are many different things to explore. First of all, I recommend using the word “examine” whenever you want to look at something. It just works better (some computer thing.) Also, when you get the book, there are a variety of different things to read about in it, but the command line is a little difficult. You have to write “consult book about {whatever}”. “Vikings” is one topic, and there are a few others. I tried to put in as many hints as I could while still letting the player explore the world a bit. Hope this helps:

Ting Wall Holm Assembly Island

Tynwald Assembly Place:

As you and your Manx friend Fynlo go about observing the events of Tynwald Day, it is important that you gather some information about the day's events from the Information Table in the Church.  After you've done so, make sure that you observe the religious Service while still in the church before heading outside to the Processional Way.  The best way to navigate through the Procession and onto the top of the hill is to keep walking East.  Most directional cues are hinted at in the game text as well. Good luck:

Tynwald Assembly Place

Yell Boat Burial:

Yell Boat Burial with Images and Sound Effects


Design an IF Game:

Legally download authoring software by visiting the Inform site:

Learn about using Inform and construct your first attempt at Interactive Fiction by visiting this site:


A more advanced tutorial is available here:


A helpful reference work concerning Interactive Fiction is:

Salen, Katie. Rules of Play: Game Design Fundamentals. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2004. (ISBN: 0262240459; Musselman Library Call Number: QA76.76.C672 S25 2003)

Copyright 1999-2010 Gettysburg College and Christopher R. Fee