Friday 24 July 2015

Timequest - Popes and Pleasures (1215/1519 AD)

Written by Reiko

Temporal Corps Private Journal #8: “I earn and spend 1000 yuan, both on pleasure-related commodities, and later earn and spend a Catholic indulgence, although the two transactions are entirely unrelated. The first transaction leads to the invasion of a city, but fortunately one that was supposed to happen anyway. I also encounter two Popes, a warlord, and an emperor. This job certainly has some perks.”

I'm going to continue with surveying non-mission locations now to look for useful items or additional messages from Vettenmyer. There are three more locations in 1215 AD, so I'll start with Rome. Everything looks very similar to earlier times. The circus is still closed, by order of Pope Innocent III. I head toward the Vatican and find the Pope himself repeating an announcement about a new crusade in several different languages. One of them is apparently another message from Vettenmyer in modern English: "If this fifth crusade succeeds, I'll eat my hat." So first Vettenmyer trained a deaf guy to write in English, and now he trained the Pope to speak in English? That's some talent. Also implausible.

I can also go into the Basilica again, which looks quite a bit different compared to Charlemagne's time. The chapel isn't available here, though, and there's nothing I see to do, so I move on.

History of Egypt in 1215 AD

In Cairo, Egypt is defending against the crusades, so they've stripped the great pyramid of its white casing stones for fortifications. An opening in the pyramid is revealed by this. Somehow I can climb up the crumbling wall of the pyramid and enter this opening, except that it's dark inside, and I can't go anywhere. I think I really must find a light somewhere. You'd think that would be part of standard time travel equipment...

Baghdad has the same ruins and caravan as the earlier times, plus the gate to the city is the same as in the sultan's time. I enter the bazaar and find a Chinese merchant there for some reason. He says he's looking for rare things, so I offer him the Egyptian aphrodisiac from Cleopatra. He is quite pleased, but he doesn't have enogh local currency to give me what it's worth, so he offers me twice what it's worth but in Chinese yuan, plus one drachma. In today's money, 1000 Chinese yuan is worth about $160 or 105 pounds, which certainly isn't enough to "live like a king" for more than a day, but considering inflation, it probably is quite a huge amount in that time period. So I agree.

Making a deal with a Chinese merchant, who seems to be taking a loss, unless he has a huge markup.

More importantly than the money, though, is the clue he gives me. Peking in 1215 holds the mission of opening the gates to Genghis Khan, which means I'm going to have to get into the city anyway. The merchant here gives me the password of "tower gate" to be identified to the guard as a merchant. That's going to be critical, I'm sure, and I get ten points for it.

I can't enter the sultan's palace in this time period, so I think that's it for this time period. Since we've got a password now, let's tackle the Peking mission, which I missed as being in 1215 when I was talking about missions last time.

Somehow having money makes me appear as a merchant.

As soon as I show up at the gates of Peking, a Mongol warrior appears and "invites" me to meet with Genghis Khan, who wishes to meet all travellers. I can't think why he'd want to get involved with every traveller personally; surely he has staff for that, but plot! Just like with Attila the Hun, I'm shoved directly into Genghis Khan's personal tent. But unlike Attila, he's oddly open and reasonable about what he wants, because in this case, what he wants is the same thing I want: for history to play out as it should, where Genghis Khan conquers the city instead of giving up on the siege. I have to wonder if he asks every Western traveller to try to open the city to him, though. (Of course, there probably aren’t very many.)

Sounds odd that Khan would mention Europe by name. Also, he doesn’t seem to actually want news from me despite what he says.

I hang around first in order to get the failure screen for this mission, because they're so amusing. I first wander up to the Great Wall and back, which takes two hours, and then I go back to Genghis Khan's tent, but it takes over six hours total before he comes storming back in and announces he's decided to give up on the siege and raid Europe instead. That should be plenty of time to solve the mission properly.

Mongols looting and destroying Europe.

Back at the gate, I give the password and am admitted to the city. Under the Sung dynasty, the culture is corrupt and decadent, with pleasure houses and such. The temple from earlier is still there by the marketplace, but now on the other side is one of the pleasure houses. The temple looks the same, but the priest is drunk and refuses me entry to the sanctuary. Clearly the solution to this mission is going to involve the pleasure house.

I enter, reluctantly, and the owner immediately asks me to show my money, to prove I have a legitimate interest in being there. Well, I don't have a personal interest, but I noticed that the soldiers at the gate looked very bored, and perhaps I could interest them in a little distraction... I show the 1000 yuan note, which is apparently taken as an invitation to spend it all at once. That means all twenty women of the house are mine to do with as I wish for the night. Coincidentally, there were twenty soldiers at the gates. Yep, my plan is proceeding perfectly.

Another jab at my...competence.

I tell the girls to follow me, which I imagine forms a rather strange-looking procession through the marketplace. The madame comes along too, and asks me when we get to the gate whether I intended the girls to be for the pleasure of the soldiers. I say yes, and the girls neatly occupy all the soldiers in various corners. I can simply open the gate at that point, and the Mongols come pouring in. Genghis Khan thanks me afterward. His "reward" is the time transponder bracelet, which of course doesn't do me any good, as it disappears a minute afterward just like the others. But I get another thirty points for finishing this mission.

History of China in 1519 AD

That was a quick resolution since I had what I needed from Baghdad to solve the mission. I'll continue with surveying non-mission locations now by continuing forward in Peking to 1519 AD. In this time, the Ming dynasty has been in power for 150 years, but the current emperor is a pleasure-seeker, perhaps a throwback to the time of the Sung emperors where I just was. He likes to arrange parades through the city, apparently. I wait for a few minutes and one comes through the marketplace, with the emperor himself throwing out fortune cookies. I take the one that comes to me and the fortune inside is a message in English: "Things would be better if you were the seventh son of a seventh son."

One point for me, and quite the puzzle this one is. How could Vettenmyer possibly have any idea which fortune cookie would end up by me? Maybe he just replaced the messages in a whole set of fortune cookies, and everyone else on the receiving end of this set would be rather puzzled to get a message in modern English. I think this is the first message that has resulted in inventory items for me, as I'm holding a fortune cookie and the written fortune now.

For the record, fortune cookies aren't originally from China, and certainly didn't exist this far back. I don't know which story is correct, but I've heard they came either from Japan or from California, and probably not earlier than the 19th century. Also, folklore says that the seventh son of a seventh son has mystical healing powers or some such. I don't know if that's supposed to be some hint that someone needs healing, or if it's just Vettenmyer spouting off.

Continuing with other non-mission locations, in Rome, the circus is closed by order of Pope Leo X. You'd think someone would tear it down or repurpose the space or something, after all this time, but apparently not. In front of the Vatican, a vendor is selling "authenticated" relics and Bibles and such to raise money for the church. There's a plaque that says, "This room has been blessed by the Most Holy Roman Catholic Pope. May his benediction fall upon all who sleep here." That's an oddly modern thing to consider putting in a room. The vendor is willing to sell it to me for twenty florins or a church indulgence.

I hardly think Michelangelo would be doing his carving in the Basilica itself. Surely he had a workshop. Plus his name’s spelled wrong.

Inside the Basilica, Michelangelo is working on a Madonna statue, with Pope Leo X observing. The pope accidentally drops a book, which I pick up for five points. It's "The Glorious Life of Pope Leo." I hand it back to him, and in return, he gives me an indulgence, plus I get another five points. I return to the vendor and trade him the indulgence for the plaque. No idea what I need it for, but clearly I needed to do that, because I get five points again.

Dover in this time holds only the shed and the tavern, but now the building has a second floor, with two bedrooms. One bedroom has a loose floorboard. I can't seem to do anything with the floorboard no matter what I do, though. I’ll come back to this later.

Back in Cairo, the Ottomans rule Egypt from Istanbul and use the country for its grain. I don't have to go far to find Vettenmyer's message in this time, written in blood on the wall: "Numbers are important when you have no sixth sense and everything seems out of order." One more point for me. I look around the other screens just to see if there's anything else, but I don't find anything. Oddly enough, the opening in the pyramid is visible, but not accessible, apparently due to rubble. The palace is still in ruins as well.

Next time I'll finish out 1519 with Baghdad. I have 312 points, plus 15 from the earlier Baghdad mission I didn't finish, and three missions are complete. Making progress!

Mission status and score so far.

Session Time: 1 hours 30 minutes
Total Time: 11 hours 30 minutes

Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There’s a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of me requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game for me...unless I really obviously need the help...or I specifically request assistance. In this instance, I've not made any requests for assistance. Thanks!


  1. It was nice of the Mongol Hordes to allow the Eiffel Tower to be built, presumably in-between their various raids of Europe! I do love seeing these bizarre alternative futures.

  2. New GOG releases:

  3. The fortune cookies and the other 'minor' historical incongruities can be hand waved by Vettenmeyer's involvement, I feel, in spite of the fact that perhaps the manufacture of them may have been extremely difficult in that time period.

    As to the time traveler's kit? I think that the historical paradox/altering time thing is the issue. Even something simple like a flint and cured wood to start a fire could completely change the evolution of humanity were the monkeys to get a hold of them, after all.

    1. As if it doesn't cause time alterations to take an item from one time period and use it in another time period? What's the difference between that and bringing something from headquarters?

    2. The mental image I'm getting here is as follows: the agency you work for in this game was set up after some so and so went and decided to invent a time machine. Travel into the future is deemed somewhat acceptable, but into the past is a strict no-no. When one of the agency's own officers jumps back, they throw the first officer they have who has undergone the training straight out to chase him before the timeline becomes so distorted they don't exist any more. I'm suggesting that what you're doing - making yourself a god, savior of Caesar and so on - is definitely against what you're supposed to be doing.

      But you're an adventure game character, which means you need to pick up everything not bolted down and hope that you have a tool to unbolt what is so you can take that too. :)

  4. Ah... Chinese history fail again.

    In the 13th century, the Song Dynasty of China does not use Yuan. They traded primarily with copper coins ('jiao' for singular hollowed out copper coin, "guan" for 1 string of a thousand such coins). Due to the high utility of copper, there was a sharp shortage of copper made available to circulate as legal tender.

    Thus, the first paper notes (also called 'feiqian', literally 'flying money' because it's light and... y'know...) in human history are born. These notes, similar to the money we use today, comes in various denominations to denote how many coins these notes are equivalent to. Since Yuan is not in circulation until the 19th Century, we have to assume that it was either 1,000 Jiao or 1,000 Guan (equivalent to 1 million Jiao).

    1 Jiao during 13th century China can buy you a cup of premium hot tea. 50 Jiao can buy you a suckling pig in a good restaurant. 1 Guan can get you a high-class courtesan to give you her undivided attention for an entire day.

    So, basically 1 Jiao is to 1 USD. Now, on the bank note. Bank notes will NEVER show 1,000 Jiao but will display 1 Guan instead. Thus, I believe Reiko's character received a 1,000 Guan Bank Note, which is actually equivalent to US$ 1 million dollars! You have overpaid those ladies of the night by 50 times, Reiko!

    1. Er...that better have been some potent aphrodisiac then, to be worth that much. The merchant did say he was offering twice its value, but still.

  5. Is there an actual death available if you spend time with the ladies in the House of One Thousand Pleasures, as implied by the madame?

    Speculation about tracking down Vettenmyer:
    V guvax lbh'er tbvat gb unir gb chg Irggrazlre'f zrffntrf va beqre gb nppbzcyvfu...fbzrguvat. V abgvprq gung gur gjb zrffntrf va guvf hcqngr vapyhqrq gur jbeqf "friragu" naq "fvkgu", naq fxvzzvat cerivbhf ragevrf, V abgvprq zrffntrf jvgu gur jbeqf "gragu," "friragrra," naq "rvtugrragu." Ontuqnq 44 OP unf gur jbeq "gbb" juvpu zvtug or "gjb."


Note Regarding Spoilers and Companion Assist Points: There's a set of rules regarding spoilers and companion assist points. Please read it here before making any comments that could be considered a spoiler in any way. The short of it is that no points will be given for hints or spoilers given in advance of the reviewer requiring one. Please...try not to spoil any part of the game...unless they really obviously need the help...or they specifically request assistance.

If this is a game introduction post: This is your opportunity for readers to bet 10 CAPs (only if they already have them) that the reviewer won't be able to solve a puzzle without putting in an official Request for Assistance: remember to use ROT13 for betting. If you get it right, you will be rewarded with 50 CAPs in return.
It's also your chance to predict what the final rating will be for the game. Voters can predict whatever score they want, regardless of whether someone else has already chosen it. All score votes and puzzle bets must be placed before the next gameplay post appears. The winner will be awarded 10 CAPs.