The Let's Play Archive


by Bobbin Threadbare

Part 25: End of Midterms

Cheimare 15-18

This being the day before the rhetoric midterm, I would have loved to cast Inspirational Writing, but Iliana hasn’t yet learned one of the phemes necessary to cast it. Specifically, she needs Scry. Fortunately, the Compete skill Planning grants the pheme at level 4, which I’ll wind up getting before the week is out. Unfortunately, it’ll still be too late for the midterm. Instead, I’ve elected to spend the day figuring out Rui da Casga’s wand and then going to see our old pal with the Seven Colors.

Also, I’m pretty sure Trial and Error is broken. It’s one of the two basic ways of identifying unknown items (the other costs pims), and according to its description it’s supposed to either raise stress or lower vitality, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen it do anything except provide information.

After breakfast, you head out into an empty field on the Academagia grounds in order to test out the wand Rui da Casga handed you last Saturday. At first, you don’t have much luck discovering what it might be good at, but when a patrolling professor happens to near your position, you hastily call up a Glamour that directs attention away from its subject. You get through the spell in record time, as the phemes practically finish themselves, and you breathe a sigh of relief as you watch the professor pass you by completely.

Intrigued, you run through a few more spells of concealment, and sure enough, each one seems much easier to cast than you’ve ever experienced. You realize this must be an Escape Wand, much like the one sold by Garibaldi’s House of the Seven Colors! How did Rui da Casga even get his hands on one of these things? At least you can consider yourself well paid for your services.

The Escape Wand provides a lasting -2% to Chance of Discovery and a point in Escape Artist. Quite the good friend, Rui.

Before heading to the Admiratio, you decide to head over to the arithmetic classroom to see how your friends did. Looking through the scores, you’re surprised to see just how miserable most of the scores are. At least a third of the class scored less than 30, and it looks like only one student even managed to get a full 50. All things considered, Emilia’s 41 seems a lot more impressive than you would have expected.

Greetings once again, mademoiselle. Shall I assume you are here once more to sell?
Yes, and I may be buying this time, too. Can you look at this? I call it the Amulet of Bloody Tears. I might have a wand to sell, too.
How fascinating.

As Garibaldi examines the crimson stone, you explain exactly how you found it, as well as how the amulet may be the only link back to the bloody vault under the Academagia. Although you do your best to talk up the amulet, you are still stunned when Garibaldi insists that he cannot take the amulet for less than 900 pims. 900 pims! This amulet just paid for your tuition at Contu’s School of Incantation single-handedly! Which means all that other money you were saving could be spent on…

In the end, you sell the wand Rule of Law, the Amulet of Bloody Tears, and the Scale you once received from a grateful inventor. This gives you enough money to buy the centerpiece of Garibaldi’s collection, the Wand of Planar Shift. Sadly, carrying two wands at once is already pushing it, and so you sell your Escape Wand and exchange it for the Doppelganger Band, a ring which has many of the same properties.

Here you are, mademoiselle. But be warned: the wand’s ability to change reality is strong, and while it will generally assist you, you must always keep a close eye on it, or it may turn…problematic.

Now that I’ve bought them, let me explain exactly what the two new items do. The Wand of Planar Shift grants +2 Revision and Revision Methods, as well as +1 Luck, which may be just about the hardest attribute to raise. However, it also provides a -1 to Concentration. The Doppelganger Band provides a +1 to Glamour Methods and lowers Chance of Discover by -2%. This would have stacked with the Escape Wand, but I decided to keep Gera’s Wand instead.

Let me also add that there are apparently at least four ring slots in this game, and likely more.

Huh. That’s funny.

You check again, but it’s still the same. You look under and around your book, but it doesn’t help. You double check your book list, but that just confirms it.

You’ve finished studying rhetoric!

You spent so many days in the library you can hardly believe you’ve finished, even if it’s just one subject out of six. You should let your parents know; they’ll be thrilled.

In fact, looking over at the clock, it would appear that you still have some time left tonight before dinner. Perhaps time enough to go exploring?

Yes, there they are: the Forbidden Archives. When Mastery and Gates were made illegal, the books on them weren’t removed from the Venalicium, but were simply moved to a roped-off wing. From then on, access was limited to a few government-approved scholars only allowed to read the subjects “for academic purposes only.”

Knowing how curious students can be, the librarians watch the entrance to the Forbidden Archives closely. Glancing around to make sure no one is looking at the moment, you twist your new ring and tap it three times, just like how Garibaldi showed you, and you smile as a replica of you appears in front of you. The features seem rough and glazed, but you figure that someone seeing it might be fooled if they were a few yards away. You park your doppelganger in between a pair of long bookshelves and command it to read from its copy of the book you’re carrying. Hopefully this will fool anyone making a headcount of students in the library.

Looking around one last time, you cast a quick Negation spell to deaden the alarm set at the archive’s entrance, then slip past the rope and into the forbidden wing. You glance around in amazement; for a pair of forbidden subjects, a whole lot has been written about them. You still aren’t sure if you even want to study either of the topics, but it’s comforting to know that you could if you wanted.

Welcome to the rhetoric midterm, students. There will be no written portion for this final; instead, every student will have five minutes to give his or her speech to the class, followed by two minutes of questions and answers. I will be participating in this, so keep on your toes. Cinzia Ammacapani, you will be going first.

You feel somewhat disappointed as you leave the classroom to check your score. Your speech was definitely well researched, and you think you impressed the professor, but you didn’t quite reach a level beyond the other students. In fact, looking up your score now, you only got a 60. Definitely impressive and certainly higher up than most students, but there were still three others who got a higher grade than yours.

Well, if you can’t get out of the pack academically speaking, you’ll just have to find some other way of making sure you stand out.

Rui da Casga finds you during lunch, and instead of heading to your afternoon classes, the two of you return to the empty classroom where he first discussed breaking in.

Turns out we won’t have to break in. I stuck a special paste into the lock on my way out earlier today. So long as no one’s noticed it, we should be able to get what we need and walk out. The only trouble is deciding what we need.

He looks around to make sure no one is close enough to hear. When he’s finally satisfied that nobody is paying attention to the two of you, he whispers:

Whoever’s doing this has been everywhere in my dorm room and done all sorts of weird things. Moved stuff around, knocked things over—I can’t figure out why. But Emilia told me once that Professor von Rupprecht keeps a couple of things in this classroom that would be perfect for identifying this weirdo. I just don’t know which thing to use.

Rui da Casga describes for you a canvas that is enchanted to draw the face of the last person who looked at it, and a mirror that will hold the image of the last living creature to cross in front of it. Finished with his explanation, he pushes on the door, which swings open. He grins at you.

Piece of cake.

You step into the shadows of the empty classroom and look around. Rui da Casga taps you on the shoulder.

This may be a little late to say, but we’re going to have to grab either the canvas or the mirror and run. I’m pretty sure that Professor von Rupprecht has some way of knowing when people are touching his things.

Knowing your college’s Regent, you’re even more certain than Rui that von Rupprecht would protect his stuff. But which one will be easier to look for, the canvas or the mirror?

Neither real option is perfect, but the Observation check is. What could that tell us?

Your eyes quickly adjust to the unusual dimness of the unlit classroom. Before you scramble through the room, you take a look around. You think you see a flicker of movement in the corner, which suggest the mirror may be there, and you see several stacks of art supplies in another corner. That should make your search easier.

Not enough to change the color of either option, but I suppose every little bit helps. The mirror is a better bet, so let’s go with that.

You decide the mirror is more likely to produce a clear image. You head over to the corner where you saw the flashing movement, trying to find exactly where it came from.

Your vision must be better than you thought, because despite the low light, you manage to find the mirror. You call Rui da Casga over, who throws a cloak over it immediately and runs out the room. You yourself are right behind him.

Neither of you slow down until the door to his door room is shut firmly behind you. After congratulating each other, you leave him there and start walking east. You still have some business to take care of today.

Welcome back, Iliana. Shall we continue your lessons where we left off last time?
Yes, please.
Very well. Then here is today’s riddle:

I am the black son of an orange father, a wingless bird, flying even to the clouds of heaven. I give birth to tears of mourning in pupils that meet me, even though there is no cause for grief, and at once on my birth I am dissolved into air.

Wait, I…oh…fire! No, smoke!
It is indeed smoke, the son of fire. Be careful when speaking your answers, dear; you wouldn’t want to lose on a technicality. Now, what is your riddle for me?
Okay, I’ve got a new one this time.

I am the bane of cities and the ambrosia of empires.
All mankind suffers to let me exist.

Ah, a fairly clever use of “suffers.” A shame you couldn’t make it rhyme, but I suppose you will need to work up to such things.
Aren’t you going to answer it?
What, and spoil the fun for the others?
All this talk of fire has put me in a peculiar mood. I believe today we shall admire the craftsmanship of some of the armor in this palace, as well as the gems and jewels set into the more ceremonial pieces. I seem to recall a few of them also had unique inscriptions as well. I will not bother summoning them all here; come.

Without bothering to see if you follow, the Sphinx walks down the steps from her tower, and you hurry after her.

You have decided that, for the time being at least, you will at least show up to morning roll call before skipping out on classes. You had been noticing your professors getting increasingly suspicious of your absences, plus this way you won’t have to track all the way back to Academagia’s main building to find out how the day’s exam turned out.

Incidentally, the exam turned out to be Astronomy today. Vrenelle scored a perfectly respectable 50, and you weren’t entirely surprised to see that Malacresta put even the Avila students to shame with a 92.

After lunch, though, you waste no time in heading back up to the Imperial Palace to meet again with the Sphinx.

Greetings again. We seem to be seeing much of each other in these past few days.
It’s just—you’re so much better than my teachers at school! You know so much about everything, plus you’re a lot better at teaching even than Professor Viada, and he’s pretty good.
Thank you, dear. It is all from centuries of practice, I assure you. However, a good education must always come at a cost, so here is your riddle for today. It is a bit different from the earlier ones.

A bookworm has reached a shelf with five books upon it. Each book has a quarter inch cover, front and back, and two full inches of pages. The bookworm begins at the front cover of the first book and does not finish until boring through to the back cover of the fifth book. How many pages did the bookworm eat?

How many? How could I…but wait…all of them?
Indeed. It is a trick question. Now it is your turn.
Okay. I thought of this one on the way over.

Too much and you will drown,
Too little and your addiction shall be your undoing.

I see. I believe this riddle has at least two answers, depending on which line you take literally. I’m sorry, I just assumed; Coordination again, dear?
Of course.
Very well. You know, Worms are far more important than their lowly status would have you believe. Tell me, does your clique have a place you tend to meet?
What? No, not really. I mean, I’ve got a sending spell set up for the two who don’t live in the Aranaz girls’ dorm.
Having a meeting place would provide more than just a location to coordinate; it would also give you a space for you and your friends to socialize. I believe I shall emphasize this with some Politics today, and perhaps a bit of Cartography for reference.

While studying in the library today, you can’t help but glance over at where the Forbidden Archives are kept. Mastery and Gates are tremendously illegal, of course, but would there really be that much harm in just learning about them? Not everyone is stopped by the law, after all. It could be helpful to know about what you may face. Yes, very helpful indeed…

Your preoccupation with the Forbidden Archives likely explains why you managed to look up an Incantation spell that conceals movement while supposedly studying Glamour.

It took until level 8, but Coordination finally requires more than one step per skill level. As such, spending a turn on Selective Focus still remains a bargain since I’d normally need 4 or 5 actions to finish the skill off, but now I can do it in 3. No one we care about is taking today’s music midterm, so let’s skip on down to the last action.

Meeting with the Sphinx today, you note that she seems oddly preoccupied. When you came in, she waved away a view between two of her pillars, but you didn’t get the chance to see what she was looking at. She turns her attention to you only with some reluctance.

Hello again, Iliana. I’m sorry, but I’m afraid you’ve caught me at a bad moment. I shall only be able to teach you two additional subjects today, and I will not be available tomorrow.
How come? Is there something wrong?
No, nothing wrong. There is simply something I must do tomorrow, and it may well require all my energy to accomplish. But you have come for instruction, so I shall provide, assuming you answer my riddle.

I fly, yet I have no wings. I cry, yet I have no eyes. Darkness forever follows me; lower light I never see.

Lower light? Cries…flies…a cloud?
Correct. And you?

My first is my last, and all in between,
But remove just one and the meaning is lost.
I am a symbol of strength yet also of weakness,
Give me your hands and I will never let go.

Interesting. I believe some more Anthropology would suit us today, and the clouds have convinced me you may do well with a bit of Concealment. Magic may hide an item more thoroughly, but palming it is both faster and far less flashy. Here, start with this coin…

Of course, that’s not the real reason the Sphinx only taught 3 skills today. Instead, one of two things probably happened: either she picked a skill Iliana already has maxed (unlikely, as I only have 5 out of hundreds at the skill cap), or else she picked a skill that doesn’t properly exist. Looking through the mod tools, there does appear to be a fair number, and if the Sphinx’s RNG doesn’t skip them, the occasional error can be expected. Heck, she even teaches Research levels every once in a while (Famous Dilemmas earlier this week), so we can't expect her to be limited to what exists.

Gains of the Week

Learned about Escape Wand.
Sold the Escape Wand, the Rule of Law, the Amulet of Bloody Tears, and the Scale; bought the Doppelganger’s Band and the Wand of Planar Shift.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Rhetoric Study level at 10.
----Study level maxed!
----Parental Approval increased by 5.
----Study Mastery: Rhetoric ability learned.
--Cryptology increased by 1 step.
----Cryptology skill maxed!
----Learned about the Ministry of Substitution and Transposition.
----Research increased by 1.
------Research parent skill maxed!
------Learned about the Venalicium Library: Forbidden Archives.
------Deep Research ability learned.

Attended Rhetoric exam and scored a 60.
Successful adventure!
--Sleuthing increased by 1 step.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Armorer increased by 1 step.
----Defensive pheme learned.
----Forge increased by 1.
------Artifice action learned.
--Coordination increased by 1 step.
--Jeweler increased by 1 step.
--Famous Dilemmas Research level increased by 1.

Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Worms increased by 1 step.
--Coordination increased by 1 step.
----Learned about the Clique Meeting Marker.
--Politics increased by 1 step.
----Anger pheme learned.
--Cartography increased by 1 step.
Studied at the Venalicium.
--Glamour Study level at 7.
----Smoke Screen spell learned.

Selective Focus used on Coordination.
Matched Wits with the Emperor’s Sphinx.
--Anthropology increased by 1 step.
----Comparative pheme learned.
--Coordination increased by 1 step.
----Keeping the Machine Oiled ability learned.
--Conceal increased by 1 step.
----Opacity pheme learned.

New Abilities
Study Mastery: Rhetoric (Permanent): +1 to Rhetoric rolls (doesn’t include exams, sadly) and +1 Debate.
The Ministry of Substitution and Transposition: +1 step in random History subskill, Puzzles, Filing, and Bureaucracy (10% Chance of Detection).
Study Mastery (the spell school): +1 step in random Mastery skill; high chance of detection.
Study Gates: +1 step in random Gates skill; high chance of detection.
Deep Research (Permanent): +3 Research.
Artifice: Can build items if one has the recipe and correct ingredients.
Smoke Screen (Spell): Finesse/Incantation Methods v8; -5% Chance of Discovery, +4 Hide and +1 Running for 2 days.
Clique Meeting Marker: +2 to all Bond levels for all Clique members for 8 days.
Keeping the Machine Oiled (Permanent): +1 Raid and Patrol to all Clique members.

Thanks to maxing out the Research skill, we now have a permanent and easy (if risky) way to learn the two forbidden schools of magic, Gates and Mastery. For reference, Gates involves the summoning (but not necessarily controlling) of monsters, as well as self-teleportation. Mastery allows the caster to control and alter the psyche and actions of others. Iliana is a bit conflicted as to whether she should pursue these proscribed schools, and so I’d like you all to vote on what she should do.

Something you should know first, though, is that learning these schools will have little mechanical effect on the game. Very few—if any—adventures or random events will call for the skills, and while the spells are illegal to cast in the fluff, nothing at all will happen to the spell wielder in game terms. Even using mind-control spells on fellow students will do nothing but drive down the mutual relationship (they still know what’s happening to them, after all). As such, learning Gates or Mastery will only be good for fluff purposes, and will have almost no impact on anything else.

And no, I’m not going to use that cheesy Mastery chain thing just to get extra time slots for training the main character.

So here are your voting options:

1. Illegal magic schools? Since when did that stop a properly ambitious young mage? Learn everything!
2. Iliana has no need to use magic to control minds, but Gating in monsters sounds like an awful lot of fun.
3. Why bother popping creatures around? Mastery over others is the real prize of magic.
4. Iliana doesn’t need magic to influence others or summon reinforcements, so why risk anything for such spells?

Also, I need a secondary vote:

a. Just dabbling in the basics should be fine.
b. Iliana must master the school(s) as far as she is able.

Just put the two votes together, like 1b or 3a. I’ll count the letters and numbers separately, so even those of you who vote 4 can pick a letter.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I plan on visiting the Forbidden Archives only often enough to pick up the four subskills. Increasing a known skill, even Gates or Mastery, can be done at any of the usual locations.

PS: If you are inclined to answer Iliana’s riddles, please do your fellows a favor and put your solutions in spoilers.