The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 1: Welcome to Academagia

So let’s start out with a quick interface tutorial.

I hope you like this screen, because you’ll be looking at it throughout the rest of the game. In the upper left corner you can see our character’s portrait and her college’s coat of arms. On the left is a column that shows the current attributes, as well as four derived stats. Stress is just what you’d expect, and its maximum is 2xFitness, plus or minus various abilities we’ll be picking up along the way. It starts at zero and goes up when bad stuff happens. Vitality, on the other hand, starts high and drops when you get beaten up, but it’s also determined as 2xFitness. In either case, once you hit your limit you are forced to rest, but resting resets both numbers to empty/full. Stress you’ll want to keep down even before hitting your limit, since bad Emotional States tend to accrue the higher it gets.

Encumbrance and Concealment are double Strength and Finesse, respectively. All inventory items have an Encumbrance and Concealment stat (even if it’s zero), and if the totals for what you're carrying go above either limit, there comes an increasingly good chance that you’ll be caught and reprimanded for breaking dress code and/or hauling around contraband.

Just underneath the portrait, you can see that, aside from attributes, you can check active abilities and possible actions, skill and research levels, your spell list, and your inventory items. Over the right column around that fancy watch doohicky you can see a set of options including the main menu, the lore list, the “more information” context button, current relations with students and faculty, clique status (more on that later), and Familiar status.

More useful than the inventory list is the paper doll inventory screen, where you can equip items, check your money level, and generally move stuff around to avoid being caught.

Aside from events and inventory, the main screen is used to hold the calendar, where you plan out your day’s activities. The red bookmark indicates that today is Juvenalia, a special holiday just before the school year starts. For some reason, holidays aren’t considered as among the days of the week, but at least there are plenty of them. Each also has a special event attached to it, which is nice.

A final use of the main panel is to check on folks we’re controlling, but that won’t come up unless we master Mastery. More on that later.

This here is an example of a choice you can make during an event. The text is color-coded based on the odds of success: green is guaranteed, blue is more than likely, black is even odds, red is less than likely, and purple is almost (or completely) impossible. Obviously, both skills and the attributes they’re based on can improve your chances, and the particular skill you’d call upon in your choice of action will show up in parentheses. In this case, the selection is only whether to end the tutorial early, so no skill is called for and both choices are guaranteed to succeed. I’ll be showing choices that matter regularly, so you’ll get a better example later.

Anyway, that’s enough for the out-of-game tutorial. Time to start the in-game tutorial!


“WANTED: HERO. No experience necessary. Visit beautiful Spielburg, fight monsters, defeat brigands. Reward and title ‘Hero of Spielburg’ to the successful applicant.”

It sounded good to me, especially the “no experience necessary” part. That was before I learned that being a Hero meant fighting vicious monsters, solving puzzles and evading traps, having to walk miles through the trackless desert, and generally working my tail off. I had just beaten an avalanche down the only pass into Spielburg valley when

“Set that drivel down, dear. We’re here!”

“It’s not drivel,” you mouth silently, but you obey your mother and look out the window, eager to see your new home for most of the next year (and with any luck, a good while longer than that). Unfortunately, the main building is still too far off to see well; instead, you are confronted with a view of the famous main gate of Academagia.

To be fair, the gate is certainly intimidating and stately enough on its own merit. Frescoes of fierce dragons and daring wizards peek out along the ivy-coated walls, while the gates themselves are a dark magic-worked steel with a delicate-seeming “A” sitting front and center. The gates are open at the moment, and two other families are wishing their dear children farewell even as your worn coach pulls to a stop.

“Now remember to keep your nose out of trouble, dear,” insists your mother as you gather your luggage from the back. “Some of the wealthiest families in the world send their children here, and not all of them think very highly of those of us who work for a living. You wouldn’t want to give them an excuse to ruin our livelihood, would you? Certainly not! And remember to keep your robes clean! The legate may have been kind enough to sponsor part of your tuition, but those robes are completely out of pocket and I will not be pleased if we return and see you wearing dirty rags! Wizards can learn charms to clean their robes, can’t they? Well, certainly they must.”

“And they have ones that mend and improve the colors, as well,” your father interrupts. “Iliana will be fine, Mother.” Turning to you, your father gives you a quick wink as he pulls the door shut. “Give ‘em hell, kid.” With that, he signals to the driver and your parents’ coach moves slowly down the road.

It occurs to you as you watch them leave that you have never felt quite so alone in your entire life as you feel right now.

Well, no time for homesickness. As you glance from your trunk to the still-distant main building of Academagia, it occurs to you that you may have packed a tad heavy. Dragging your baggage past the open gate, you spare a dirty glance at one of the gate’s guards, who is steadfastly refusing to help you or the other incoming students with their loads. The guard merely smiles in response and says, “That bag will be floating the next time you bring it through here.” But until then, no sympathy for the overladen children? Lousy guard.

So here you are. Past the disturbingly huge city of Mineta, past the gates, past the days of sunburn and nights of motion sickness and all the other pleasures of traveling in a hurry, you find yourself in your new home: a big, warm dorm room with a sickly sweet smell and a window view of a big stretch of grass and churned mud that’s probably an athletic field. A good place to rest, but otherwise...well, just a room. At least for now, you promise yourself, already figuring out exactly where and what to decorate your room with.

Still, aside from Captain Northbridge, who has leaped onto the windowsill to lick the road dust out of his fur, your old friends--your old life--has been left behind. You’re at the Academagia now, to learn magic.

Glancing back at your room, you see your trunk again and the urge to unpack leaves you quickly. Even worse, it appears to have multiplied; boxes from Academagia containing textbooks and gods know what else are stacked by the armoire. Putting them all away will be work, and you’re not in the mood just yet.

You want to see magic. You want to see kids your own age. You want to see kids your own age using magic. To fight pirates. Or better yet, to bind them to your will and become Iliana, Magical Queen of the Pirates! Or should that be Pirate Wizard-Queen? Queen-Wizard? Is “wizard” gender-neutral? Bah, you’ll work the details out later.

Suddenly, you’re interrupted by an adult voice, magically amplified and booming from...well, somewhere else.

“Attention, students! The wyverns are under control! I repeat, the wyverns are under control! However, for your own saftey, please avoid making eye contact with the pirates! As they are under a particularly unhelpful Glamour--three demerits for Miss Cossin’s College!--their behavior can be difficult to predict! The situation should be resolved shortly!”

Well. You have no one to blame but yourself for ending up here.

It’s at this point that you notice the letter on your bed--tips from the room’s last occupant. You move Felix off the windowsill and take a seat.

Gera Tolmin posted:

Hello, new student!

My name’s Gera Tolmin, and your dorm room here was mine this time last year. Sorry about the smell--making your own candy isn’t as easy and splatter-free as they’d make you think! Stupid candy liars.

Anyway, I’m gone. By the time you read this, I’ve gone back home. It’s a long story, it involves pirates, and you’re probably better off not knowing it. And, look, I know you’re going to get a mentor by the end of your first day, and maybe it’ll be a good one. Mine just made me carry her books and told me to keep my eyes open, though, so maybe not. For what it’s worth, here’s what I wish someone had told me at the start.
That’s odd. the rest of the page has been heavily scribbled over by someone else. In fact, it looks like most of the rest of Gera’s letter has been written over.

Bobbin Threadbare posted:

Right, Gera’s a good soul, but this letter of hers just isn’t all that helpful. Since I still owe her one for the candy, I suppose I’ll do her and you a favor and write this out good and proper.

First, you’ll note that, five days out of seven, they want you going to class for most of the day. Going to class is good, of course, that’s where you learn things. You could skip class if you wanted, but that’ll make you truant, and if you do it enough you’ll get caught and punished, and you don’t want that now, do you? You can change your schedule whenever you like, but since you can always see your calendar every day, there’s no real reason to plan farther ahead.
You suppose that’s fair enough.

Bobbin Threadbare posted:

As far as interesting stuff goes, there’s basically three categories: first, you could go off looking for trouble by Adventuring. Second, holidays are always interesting. Third are the random events that go looking for you. In all three cases, you’ll have some choices to make, some better than others depending on what skills you spend your time training.

Mind you, there will be times you fail, and fail hard. But that’s okay! Sometimes there’s even a reward in failing, but first I should probably explain skills.
Well, it’s either this or unpacking.

Bobbin Threadbare posted:

Skills, yes. They come in two varieties: Parent Skills and Subskills. A Parent Skill links together three or more related skills, and these Subskills determine your Parent Skill rank. Gera wanted to get all fancy here, but it’s pretty simple: the value of a Parent Skill equals the third highest Subskill. That’s it. Well, plus or minus outside modifiers, but that hardly counts. Also, if it looks like you don’t have enough Subskills to raise your Parent Skill, your only problem is you don’t know about enough of the Subskills.

Look, there are tons of skills you don’t even know about yet, that’s just natural. There are three basic ways to get more: one, do something that trains a random skill and hope you get lucky; two, train a skill high enough to unlock knowledge about other skills; and three, try an unfamiliar skill in an event or Adventure (you’ll most likely fail, but at least you can train it up now).

When you train skills, remember that there are steps along the way. Better attributes mean fewer steps, so stick to your strengths. Or buff your attributes with spells before training. Or become so awesome that everything is a strength. Whatever works.
You like the sound of that last one.

Bobbin Threadbare posted:

By the way, I should add that School Survival is a pretty good place to start, no matter what kind of person you are. Improving those skills can unlock useful and powerful actions, like Research and Vendetta, plus it’ll teach you about other important skills, like the ones for the Befriend Parent Skill.
You know, maybe a room that permanently smells like candy isn’t so bad, now that you’ve gotten used to it.

Bobbin Threadbare posted:

Crud, I almost forgot about Study levels. Studying is separate from skills, and only applies to your current classes. You’ll need to get some studying in if you want good grades, and unlike the skill levels it’s not just handed out by going to class. Still, it’s a good way to spend some time and get to know other classmates, and there are even some bonuses to be had for maxing it out at 10. 5 should be enough for the midterms, at least, but watch out for those, because Cheimare will come around sooner than you think.
Thank goodness, you’re almost out of pages.

Bobbin Threadbare posted:

You have a Familiar with you, right? Of course you do, stupid question. Not like you have a choice in the matter. Anyway, you and it have a Bond, which can be trained like any other skill. The Bond comes in three flavors: Iron (physical), Silver (mind), and Stars (spirit). Each one plays host to a number of skills, and your Familiar’s skills will add onto yours up to the relevant Bond’s level. That’s assuming your Familiar has any skills to add, mind you. But then it does work both ways, too.
Just one more. One more. Looks like it hasn’t been scribbled over as much, either.

Gera posted:

There’s a lot more you’ll pick up. Exploring will Inform you of new Locations, which can give you new Research topics and new things to do. Just be warned, if you’re exploring where you don’t have Visitation Rights, there’s a Chance you’ll be Discovered and get in trouble. [Don’t worry about it too much, though--I’m pretty sure the faculty expect us students to do at least a bit of wandering.]

You’ll build Relationships, you’ll make Friends, and those friendships will make some things easier for you. You’ll annoy people and fight Duels. You’ll obviously learn about Spells and Phemes--that’s kind of the point. Maybe you’ll even run into pirates and monsters. I kind of hope you don’t, for your own sake, but...well, from the time the first dragon reared its evil head, it seems like humanity’s hopes haven’t always counted for very much.

Anyway, take care of the room, please. I always liked it.

Yours in magically burning things,

Oh, no! Just as you were putting the last page away, a slip of paper dropped from beneath the stack. It looks like it was torn out of an old textbook.

Bobbin Threadbare posted:

Did Gera really mention spells without actually explaining them? Shame, shame! It’s not like they aren’t simple enough, once you figure out the basics. You gain spells by leveling your skills--usually magic skills, but not always. Thing is, to cast them, you also have to know the phemes they’re composed of. Once you know that, though, you just set aside some time and cast the spell. Whether or not you succeed involves a skill roll, at least with most.

Phemes, just so you understand, are the building blocks of spells. They can be anything from Earth or Fire to Honesty to Confidence to Celery. Ah, Celery. Here’s where the real fun comes in: phemes can be added on top of regular spells to get special bonuses (or penalties, for casting on an enemy) to skills, attributes, and other stats. Each Pheme added to a spell increases the difficulty, but Phemes can stack on themselves as high as you can manage, and different spells will stack on top of each other. You can get some really, really high numbers if you do it right. Just remember to keep track of how long the spell lasts.

One final note: while you are probably aware of the schools of magic being offered by Academagia, there are two more that have been forbidden: Gates and Mastery. Gates allows you to summon dire creatures and alter their shape (or anyone else's) to your every whim, while Mastery lets you control the very mind and body of others. They're not considered evil, per se, but they've been banned due to "rampant misuse." Considering I could start wildfires with Incantation or collapse buidings with Revision, I really don't see the distinction, but if you come across either school during your time here, just be careful! There are worse fates than expulsion, you know.

I think that’s about it, though. Good luck, new student!

Bobbin Threadbare

PS Don’t cast the Open Pheme near a graveyard. I’m not saying it’ll come up, but better safe than sorry.
All those pages of guidance, and neither one told you where to find the kitchens. Typical. Ah, well. Time to meet the school!