The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 6: Getting Ahead

Athonos 6-7

Figuring that your Listening skill could use some work, you decide to spend some time with Aveline.

...You know you’re too lanky, right? Boys don’t ever go in for girls that are taller than them, but I suppose you’re stuck since slouching will just show off that low-class posture of yours and all the boys who go to this school want to aim a little higher than that, you know? Plus your hair is just so boring in those pigtails, it doesn’t have nearly enough of a curl to look good and that color isn’t doing you any favors at all, you should at least try putting it up in a bun or maybe cutting it shorter so you can style it into something that doesn’t look so dreary...

You get through about ten minutes before you give up and escape.

You send word to Oan that you’re ready to talk some more; her response makes you question her sanity.

“Meet me at the Academagia Main Gate before breakfast,” you mutter as you read the letter. Before breakfast! Grumbling, you pack yourself a small snack in your knapsack in case you don’t get back in time for breakfast and go to sleep a bit before your normal bedtime.

At the appropriate time, you head out to the gates. The walk from your College dorm isn’t too bad, and you arrive at the gates several minutes before the sun is even up. Spying Oan on the Academagia side of the gate, you walk over and wave.

“Good morning, Iliana!” she shouts with far too much cheer for this hour of the morning. A look of serenity crosses her face as you step up beside her, and she turns towards the gate. “This is my favorite time of day,” she explains quietly. “Have you ever been here before?”

You start to mention how you’ve passed through a few times, but Oan quickly cuts you off with, “I mean, have you ever really visited this place?”

You’re not totally sure what she expects you to say. It’s the Main Gate. Should you have been hanging out here after class just to watch dust settle on the road?

Oan smiles. “That’s okay,” she allows. “So few First Year stutents take the time to come here and hang out that I’m not surprised you haven’t been here. Let me explain about this place and what it does.”

“Most people think that the Academagia was founded by Noemea, but they’re sadly mistaken. It was actually founded by her brother, Athanasios, along with a small group of scholars who took it upon themselves to better the study of magic and its effects upon the world around it. Technically, Noemea was the one who placed the first foundation stone, but it was really her brother who founded the school.”

A hint of motion on the Mineta side of the gates snags Oan’s attention. “Here it comes,” she says excitedly. Two guards march in sync from either end of the stone wall towards the center of the open gates. Stopping when their noses are mere inches away from each other, the guards turn and, in unison, bellow:

Verbis Noemeae

In Memoria Athanasi

Porta Academagiae hiat;

Quisques cupens scientiam

Intrate et cognoscete!

Their ritual complete, the guards turn sharply and walk back to their posts. The words release a flood of visitors from the outside, and you spy all kinds of men and women shuffling their way through the gates onto school grounds. “Visitors are only allowed into the Academagia from sunup to sundown, unless they have a special pass signed by the Legate or the Praetorian Council.” Oan turns to you and beams a winning smile your direction. “What they said was, ‘In the name of Noemea, for the memory of Athanasios, the Academagia gates stand open; those who desire knowledge, enter and learn.’ Okay, let’s move on.

“So I’ll bet you’re wondering why I asked you to come here,” Oan speculates. Now that you mention it, you think sarcastically, but Oan continues before you can say something you might regret. “Most people walk right on past the Gate, hurrying on towards what they think is more important business.” As if proving her point, several people brush past you and Oan without even noticing your presence. One man in a gray set of robes is muttering under his breath as if trying to remember something, while a woman in a multicolored wrap has her head held high and moves with a strict purpose. Oan shakes her head sadly. “If these people only knew the power of locations, they might walk a bit slower and see what’s hidden in front of them.”

The power of locations? “Everything has power,” Oan begins, “even locations. Take this place, for example: don’t you feel any different now than you did before you watched that ceremony?”

Ooh, the tutorial skill checks are getting tricky. That, or Iliana has shoddy observation skills. Still, it didn’t take too many reloads to get this one down right.

Is something different? Is something off? You don’t feel sick.

Actually, you feel...what? Not alert, exactly, but there’s a kind of focus to your thoughts that wasn’t there before. Just to test yourself, you start to recite the opening of Xeroton’s Address to the Five Hundred--the same four sentences every child in the known nations stumbles listlessly through every summer--only now they have power. You can feel the words dance as you say them, and you grin at Oan.

“Somebody told you!” she accuses, utterly failing to look offended. “Fine, you cheater. For the record, you can walk through these gates a thousand times before you leave this school and never know about its power, but if you take the time to explore the location and get a feel for it, there’s obviously a benefit to coming here. Since I made you stay and watch the ceremony, you now know this place well enough to have a feel for it. From now on, whenever you come and spend even a small amount of time here, you’ll notice that your abilities in Oratory are increased a little for as long as you hang around. If you’re just passing through on your way to Mineta or the Admiratio, though, you won’t get that benefit. That doesn’t mean you have to come and watch the ceremony anymore, only that you have to make a conscious effort to visit here and spend some time.

“Now, I should warn you, not every location works like this. Some places only give you a benefit if you stay there while you’re doing something. Remember the Garden Galley where we learned about friends? Well, now that you know about that place and spent some time exploring it, you’ll find that you have a bonus to certain Social actions when you’re there--but only when you’re there. Some places give you bonuses to Skills or Actions that you can take away with you and last for a certain amount of time, but others only work while you’re there, got it?”

You’d like to say something, but Oan turns and starts walking back towards the Great Hall, making you rush to keep up. “The island of Elumia is divided up into five main areas, called Regions,” she recites. “There’s the Academagia, the Academagia Grounds, the City of Mineta, the Imperial Reserve, and the rest of the island, called Elumia Proper. Within these regions are tons and tons of cool places to find, but you might not even know you’ve found them unless you Explore the area. To Explore an area, all you need to do is spend a few hours looking around and seeing what you can see. Every time you Explore a particular region, you’re practically guaranteed to find something interesting about that place. If you find that you’re not discovering anything really cool, consider spending some time learning more about Exploration. The better you get at it, the more likely you are to find something really interesting.”

Oan looks towards you with a gleam in her eye, and you wonder what exact location she’s thinking of right now. It has to be something interesting or she wouldn’t be fighting so hard to keep that smile from her face. “One last warning about locations,” she adds as her face becomes more serious. “There are dangers to Exploring, dangers of all kinds. If you’re somewhere you’re not supposed to be, there’s always a chance that a Professor will bust you and assign you detention. Just check out the Location and look for its Discovery Chance. The higher that is, the more likely you are to be caught. Also, some places have Monsters hanging out, and if you’re not prepared to fight, you might not like the consequences.”

Busted by Professors? Fighting Monsters? There are so many questions you’d like to ask, but before you have a chance, Oan pats you on the back and says, “I’d love to stay and talk more, really, but I have a huge makeup quiz in my Advanced Theory of Negation class that I’m not supposed to know is coming today. I’ve got a couple of things I need to review before I’m ready, and it’ll be right after breakfast, so I gotta run. I’ll send word when I’m ready to meet again. Probably tomorrow, okay?”

You nod and part ways.

Figuring that a week is long enough to learn basic etiquette, you decide to go see what the pirates are up to, and take it upon yourself to visit them at the Pirate Cove. When you arrive, you don’t see the expected lazing about that you’re accustomed to. What you find is the pirate camp in a flurry of activity.

A flash of sunlight on gold and silver immediately alerts you to Kaidlette’s location. She is perched on a crate, directing several men and pointing upwards. Your gaze follows her bejeweled hand and you gasp in wonder at the magnificent ship floating above. The sails move languidly in the breeze, giving the ship an air of calm serenity amidst the commotion below. Tearing your eyes away from the marvelous vessel, you weave your way through the anxious pirates and approach Kaidlette. When she sees you she crouches down, her hair framing her tan face and spilling across her signature red frilly shirt.

Hey, kid. You picked a heck of a time to drop in for a visit. The Swashbucklers are preparing for a raid and I’ll be a molting parrot if I’ll let them in without a fight.

You blink in surprise, somewhat startled by the outburst. You take one more look around and see that virtually every able-bodied individual is carrying things or scurrying to and from boxes, rummaging around or otherwise trying to load things on the ship with a series of pulleys. You notice a large stockpile of seemingly discarded items and contraptions thrown haphazardly near the edge of the woods. It seems the pirates have deemed these items uneccessary and are concentrating on getting the valuables out of sight. Turning back to Kaidlette, you realize you lost her attention and she is now yelling rather colorful curses at a group of pirates that spilled a chest of gold on the ground in their haste to bring it to the ship.

It looks like they’re going to need some help if they’re going to fortify the camp in time. Your head starts filling with options and you have to decide. Will you help or just run back to the school to hide?

Ouch, looks like we’ve got a no-win scenario here. Not only does Iliana not have even a fighting chance at any of these options, but she isn’t even familiar with the skills, which would have let her raise them in preparation. Making things worse is that this is a one-time-only Adventure; while most Adventure stages outside the tutorial require you to repeat them to proceed, this particular stage will move on whether we succeed, fail, or bail out.

Oh well. Might as well get Traps while we’re here.

Miss out on adventure and mayhem? No way. Not waiting for any orders, you grab a shovel, pick a spot near the edge of the forest, and start to dig. It’s certainly not easy, and the sand makes digging pretty difficult, but you picked an area that was fairly close to where the land becomes dirt and so you at least have one wall of solid support. As the hole gets deeper, you start to pull branches from the forest, using them to keep the sand from refilling the hole.

It’s slow work, and it seems like the harder you try, the more stubborn the sand becomes. When you take a step back to survey your work, you’re embarrassed by the dismal appearance of your would-be trap. Currently, it looks like a bunch of sticks poking out of a hole a little kid was digging for fun. Certainly not something that would hold back a group of raiders.

At that moment you hear a horn sound in the distance. Oh, no! You spent all that time trying to make a clever trap and now that the raid is coming you have little to show for it. Even worse, now Kaidlette is coming to talk with you.

I appreciate you trying to help, kid, but perhaps you’d better get back to the school. I’d rather you be in one piece the next time we need you.

You try to protest, but she won’t hear a word of it. You trudge back to the school and wait for word of the raid. It arrives a little later that day.

We persevered. The fight was long and grueling, but the cove is still ours and the Swashbucklers have been turned back. Don’t feel too down on yourself, kid. Not everyone can be a pirate right away.

--Kaidlette “The Quick” Devereau

Despite her mild words, the insult still stings. “Not everyone can be a pirate right away.” Well darn it, you thought you were doing pretty well until that darn sand decided to ruin your plans! Still embarrassed at the spectacle you made of yourself, your attitude remains gloomy for the remainder of the day.

On your way to dinner, you are startled when the sky above the Great Hall explodes into a display of crimson vines and spinning hammers. Noting your bewilderment, one of the older Aranaz students walks over to you. “Get used to seeing those colors,” he explains, his mouth twisted into a scornful grin. “Vernin almost always gets the Flos Fragi every year. Aranaz gets close sometimes, but I like to think we just don’t suck up to the teachers enough to beat ‘em.” Having said his peace, the student moves on, leaving you feeling rather conflicted about the whole experience.

Today we’re trying a couple new things.

First, you may note that the Befriend action is purple; this is normal. Befriend is a contested action, and all contested actions are listed as purple until the opponent is decided in the sidebar.

Second, Study at the Venalicium Library is an Ability which raises a selected Study level and a random Research subskill. Since all Study does is raise the Study level and nothing else, and since the Venalicium Library is unlocked from the get-go, there is virtually no reason to avoid using the library to Study.

As you can see in the action listing, Befriending Emilia Strolin (who won the earlier vote) is actually a much more secure blue action. Befriend is, at its base, a roll of Charm/Befriend versus the same from your target. However, the modifiers surrounding the roll can be rather arcane. At least according to its description, Befriend can be more likely if a) you and the target have a high Relation and b) if the other Clique members also have a high Relation with the target, whereas having Clique members who dislike the target and having extra Clique members in general seem to penalize the roll. I can at least tell you that the first Befriending attempt is practically a gimmie, so long as your target isn’t already in a Clique.

Something else you can see in the screenshot is that I’m now trying out Oan’s Location bonus thing. Conveniently, The Great Hall is available right from day 1, and its boost to Befriending is fairly substantial.

Not every Location is so useful, sadly. Like Oan said, most only provide a minor boost to one or two skills and only for the duration of your stay. I suppose that could be useful when casting a spell that uses the skill, but otherwise it doesn’t have much application. Maybe it’ll boost the skill during an Adventure, since those don’t technically have a location? I’ll have to experiment.

Some are pretty useful, though, like the Great Hall on occasions like these, and The Room of Lassimere, which makes training the rather difficult Jewelry skill easier if done on location. Abilities are almost all based on Locations already, making it impossible to exploit the system while using them, but Actions (like Befriend) and Spells can be performed just about anywhere. If nothing else, picking random Locations should spice up my action descriptions.

So, um, why did you want to meet me here?

Good question. Why did you pick the mousey quiet girl to make your first friend? You had thought at first of asking Carmine Sturzo--not because you like the smug twerp, but because you could use some connections like his--but you found out that he’s already made friends with Montague Ruffo, and there’s no way you’re going to beg them to be in their little boy’s club. No, a future world leader like you will have to start leading from the very start, and who better to lead than the quiet girl who doesn’t leave her room half the time?

Because the time has come for you and I to embrace our destiny! Why did you come to this school, Emilia? Because you and I want the same thing: to be among the most powerful individuals in the world, to be one of the movers and shakers that even kings and dragons must listen to!
Well, I--I guess, I mean, something like that--
Exactly! And just like the Five-Handed Tree, we’ll be invincible to all bullies and aggressors, but bend politely to any who wish to ask us for favors.
The Five-Handed Tree? But I remember hearing that Rui da Casga was in the garden once, and--
Ha! Rui was an idiot who didn’t realize the tree just wanted to play around and have some fun. And that’s what the Five-Handed Tree is all about : hidden depths. I have mine, of course, and you have yours. I mean, after all, you picked Aranaz for a reason, right?
There you go! Hidden depths! Always beware the quiet ones! Are you with me?!

You stick your hand out in front of you, palm down, and convince Emilia to put her hand on top of yours.

Five hands, one--
But that’s only two hands.
We’ll get the other three later. Fine, two hands, one destiny!

At that, you fling your hand into the air, carrying Emilia’s with it. She pulls her hand back quickly and cradles her wrist nervously, apparently unfamiliar with the whole ritual.

The motto could probably use some work. Anyway, that’s it for now! Go out there and make your destiny!

You watch as Emilia leaves, faintly puzzled by the morning’s events, and a smile comes to your face. After all, you imagine your parents will be glad to hear you’re making such nice, well-behaved friends already at your new school. Perhaps you’ll even get them to reinstate your allowance. You start to wonder just how much goodwill Emilia would be worth...

Success! The first successful Befriending is also easy to predict thanks to the naming pop-up that comes up as soon as the game calculates a good roll. The Clique won’t be renamed going into the future, so all subsequent friends will be more of a surprise.

Afternoon finds you spending extra time in the library working through advanced handwriting lessons. When you spot Professor von Rupprecht passing through your section, you carefully arrange your books so that the most advanced text is the most prominent, and you silently pray that your instructor spots you. It isn’t long before you find your prayers have been answered.

Studying for Calligraphy exams already, Ms. Ot’Matar? Good to see you have your priorities in order.
Well, it’s just like you said, Professor. A steady and practiced hand is the basis for all magic use, and if I want to get anywhere in this academy, I’ll need to focus on the most essential class of all.
You’re just saying that to try and get my favor. Keep up the good work.

Deciding that the time is right, you send word to Oan that you’re ready to meet and discuss Professors. In her reply, Oan asks that you meet her at the Great Hall. You make your way to the Flos Fragi at the appointed hour and wait somewhat patiently. As you’ve come to expect, Oan arrives cheerfully, though looking a bit frazzled.

“Sorry I’m late, Iliana,” she apologizes. “I was up late last night doing...well, never mind. I hope you don’t mind if we walk so I can keep myself awake.” You shrug and follow her as she sets off; it’s not like you have any great sentimental attachment to the Hall. “So, ready to talk about Professors and what they can do for you?”

“Of course,” you reply, “but what is there for you to tell me that I haven’t already figured out on my own?”

“Plenty,” she responds. “Just because you’ve been to some classes doesn’t mean you know all there is to know. For example, did you know you can compete for Merit from a Professor?”

Oan smiles. “It’s pretty easy, actually. You simply Compete with one of your fellow students, either in or out of class. Depending on the subject and your knowledge of it when compared to your fellow student’s, you might win a bit of Merit for your College from the Professor. You don’t lose anything if you lose the competition, but it can take a few hours to really make a case, and it can be frustrating if it doesn’t go your way.

“Then there’s what we call Favor--it’s another little school in-joke. You help an instructor carry a load of books ten miles? You earn a point! Really, it’s just another way of talking about a Relationship. It’s just that friendship with teachers works a little differently. As nice as some of them are, they’re not going to hang out with you for fun, and you’re not going to be able to call upon their skills whenever you like. Instead, it’s more like...

“Okay, say a teacher likes you--you’ve got some Favor, what do you do with it?” Oan continues. “Like most everything, the more you have of something, the more you can do with it once you decide what to do.” Realizing how stranger her words sounded, she adds, “Sorry, I’m in Professor Sido’s Advanced Dialectic course this year, and some of the things he makes us think about are...well...if you ever get into his Advanced Dialectic course, you’ll understand.

“Anyway, the short version is like this: the more Favor you have with a Professor, the greater your reward will be when you cash in that Favor. If you have hardly any Favor with a Professor, you won’t really get much for what you have, but if you have a lot of Favor, you can learn a ton of stuff that isn’t in any books, lemmie tell ya!”

Wait...Professors teach things that aren’t in class? “Oh yeah,” Oan replies enthusiastically. “Phemes, Spells, Locations, really intensive Skill Training...Professors might not know everything there is to know, but what they do know is a whole lot more than we do! But, and here’s the only sad part, once you cash in your Favor with a Professor, that’s it, it’s all gone. You can get more, of course, but you have to start from scratch. Make sense?”

Nodding your head, you catch sight of Professor Aventyrare, your Revision instructor. Oan follows your line of sight and sees you looking at your teacher. “Okay then, now that you know what you’re doing, feel like trying for some Favor?”

After all that, of course, it would be rude to say no.

“Since you’re interested, then I’ll let you in on a little secret. I just happen to know that she’s going to be ‘attacked’ by a swarm of Laughing Bees any second now. I’m sure that you’ll earn some favor if you manage to chase the bees off before she gets embarrassed. Look, here they come...don’t just stand there, go earn some Favor!”

Using Glamour seems the most appropriate, so--hey, what’s that new option there at the bottom?

Sacrifice a Member is another function gained by gathering a Clique, and fortunately it’s not nearly as dire as it sounds. Basically, you choose an option, then choose a Clique member--which one really isn’t important--and then the game assumes that the chosen option was successful. You can only use each friend once, and your Relationship takes a hit (nothing you can’t fix later, at least), but you still get the rewards you would have gathered otherwise. Really the biggest downside is that you don’t get to see the success text, which can leave a lot of unanswered questions, particularly if it’s the last one in a chain. For the most part, I’d say that Sacrificing a Member should only be used on particularly difficult rolls that would require extensive training and preparing in a field your character isn’t geared towards. And avoid using it on the last one in a chain if you can help it.

Where was I? Oh, right, Glamour.

Whipping out your wand, you dash toward your instructor. You’re so busy shuffling through all the Phemes in your head you can barely pay attention to where you’re running, but you still manage to shout, “Look out, Professor Aventyrare!” The Professor takes one look at the direction your wand is pointing and, recognizing the danger, pulls out her own. Before the Professor can do anything more, however, you’ve managed to piece together the necessary Phemes for your spell and let it fly. Your spell hits the Durand Flos Fragi, causing it to “grow” into a large sunflower plant; seeing this, the Laughing Bees veer off and head to the new (and obviously more tempting) target, leaving the Professor safe and sound. She turns to you and smiles: “Thanks to your warning, I would have had them in another second; still, it was nice to see such quick thinking and action. That was a wonderful spell you cast...quite remarkable you were able to form it up so quickly. I’ll remember you next time you’re in class.”

Waiting a few moments for the Professor to walk away, you turn back to where Oan was sitting, only to discover that she’s gone. In her place is a small piece of parchment held down by a few pebbles. Picking up the parchment, you read, “Sorry I can’t stick around to see how things turned out; if someone started asking how you knew the Laughing Bees were on their way, I wouldn’t want either of us to have to answer any awkward questions. For our next meeting, we’ll head down to the Admiratio and pick up a few things for a little project I’m working on. Before we go, though, you’ll need to make sure you have enough Pims to make the trip worthwhile, so be sure to wait until you have at least 20 Pims before contacting me. Until then, keep studying!”

20 Pims? Drat. Your parents’ allowance won’t arrive until the end of next week, and it might not even be enough to cover that kind of expense. Looks like you might have to put in an honest day’s work for once.

What a wonderful evening on the Via Porta! You are strolling along as happy as a clam, wondering why clams are so happy anyway.

Psst! You!

You hear a little voice. You turn and see a little mousy girl dressed in rags. Her red hair is better kept than the rest of her, and her mane brings out her freckles a bit.

Are you just going to stare? Come help me!

Behind her are two large sacks about as big as her.

What’s in them?

The little girl giggles.

Dead bodies, manure, Estionian firewater, does it matter?

Do you wish to have an adventure Y/N


She thrusts one of the large sacks into your hands. It’s much heavier than it looked and it looked very heavy already. You lug it down the Via Porta, the other inhabitants of Mineta completely ignoring your plight.

The little girl skips and giggles with the large sack slung around her shoulder. She seems to be floating on air.

Hurry up, slowpoke!

You are beginning to dislike this girl.

You wander up and down the roads of Mineta for what seems like hours, until you turn into a street and arrive exactly where you started! Exasperated and unhappy, you ask,

What is this?

You let the bag fall with a thunderous plop.

Wasn’t that fun? I wasn’t sure if you were going to keep going!

She whips out a handkerchief and wipes your brow.

Well, you are a determined one. You can open your bag now.

Still angry, you open the bag, and suddenly feel much better. Inside is another bag, but this one is transparent. Inside, you see angelwing mushrooms, dragon teeth gumballs, and--you’re not sure, but, why, yes! Yes they were! Golden froschballs! You haven’t had one of those since you were a child.

You begin to stammer out a thank you, but the girl is no longer there.

It’s a pretty nice haul for doing nothing but saying yes on a random event. What’s even better, the random event decided to inform Iliana about what each of the items does, which isn’t always guaranteed, even for consumables like these.

Now that we have some real inventory, you can also see how the paper doll works. The big thing to note is that the item slots don’t appear until after you get items you can fit in them, which is why we only have “Mushroom” and “Food” slots right now.

The big disadvantage of consumable items is that they take up a time slot to consume. Reducing Stress is a pretty big benefit, but with the same amount of time I could Use the Athletic Fields, which reduces Stress and also grants a point in a random Athletics subskill, much better than a temporary Concentration boost. On the other hand, these items might sell for a decent sum. The next Mentor topic is supposed to be shops, but I may just show them off early to get the 20 pims we need.

Gains of the Weekend

Listen increased by 1 step.
Successful Adventure!
--Learned about The Great Gate of Academagia.
--Learned about Awareness.
--Perception increased by 1 step.
--Learned about Theory of Revision (sorta).
Unsuccessful Adventure.
--Increased Stress by 2.
Basia and Aveline used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 15.
Vernin College wins the first Merit award!

Emilia Strolin has joined the Five-Handed Tree!
--Relationship with Emilia Strolin increased to 2.
--Gained Clique Ability: Parental Payoff.
Studied at the Venalicium Library.
--Calligraphy Study level at 1.
----Relationship with Sixt von Rupprecht increased to 2.
--Cryptology increased by 1 step.
Successful Adventure!
--Relationship with Lisle Aventyrare at 1.
--Learned about Plot: Flawless Timing.
Successful Event!
--Gained 2 Golden Angelwing Mushrooms, 1 Golden Froshballs, and 1 Dragon Teeth Gumballs.
--Learned about all of the above.
Basia and Malacresta used Compete; Aranaz merit now at 21.

New Abilities

Parental Payoff: +20 to Parent Approval (aka biweekly allowance); PA now at 15.
Eat Golden Angelwing Mushroom: Increase Concentration for 2 days and reduce Stress by 1.
Eat Dragon Teeth Gumballs: Chance of Success with all Social Actions/Abilities +5% for 2 days.
Eat Golden Froshballs: Increase Pure Luck skill and Max Stress by 1 for 2 days.