Wednesday 2 September 2015

Spellcasting 201 - The Case of the Oiled Moustache

Ernie Eaglebeak's Journal #1
“I sure hope they don't find this. I mean, I woke up this morning with just my cloak – I had all of this stuff they somehow managed to drag out of my hands and throw onto my floor! It seems like they've kinda got it in for me here at HDP – or at least that moron Chris Cowpatty does. One of the other pledges got forced to unleash hornets inside my first class for the day, another to set a smoke bomb off during a concert tonight.. me? Up a huge statue and putting a fake moustache on it! Okay, I'll admit that it's pretty funny, but it's lucky I don't have a fear of heights! Classes sure did fly by today, but I did learn some stuff. For instance, if I really know a couple of spells I don't really need a spellbook for – Prof. Wartytoad explained it with BIP, but I tried later when I locked myself under a manhole and FRIMPed my way out. Good thing I can lift a twenty pound iron doughnut with it! Prof. Branmuffin is one hell of a bore, but at least I know some things about what sort of trees and herbs I'm going to need to look for in the Profession. –Hiddenmolar, though.. the guy hates me. His class should be the most fun – transmuting is something that every sorcerer (Sorcerer? I'll have to ask whether I'm supposed to capitalise it one of these days) aspires to – but he seems to want to torment everyone in the class, especially me! Still, I've got my lump of bronze for his next class. Some reading to do. As for the pledge? I think that they might have rigged it. Good thing I have the Sorcerer's Appliance! They oiled up the statue that I had to climb to put the moustache in place.. so naturally, I used a diamond manufactured by the Appliance to get a de-oiling spell to climb up and throw the moustache in place between first and second period.. I saw the surprise on Cowpatty's face and gave him a good smack for it. Looks like I've got a nemesis already..”

Not the worst puzzle in the world involving a moustache (light spoiler alert)

It appears that this game will require saves all over the place. You only have so much free time available – I kinda feel that Friday is probably going to be the last 'day of school' given what Dean Tickingclock mentioned in the prologue – and I have discovered that you need to complete the fraternity pledge pranks, and they're a daily occurrence. In and of itself this isn't necessarily a problem – but there's also several things heavily hinting that I need to be present for each and every lesson as I will otherwise not be able to complete the game (this is both given in-game by 'Truancy Nymphs' which pop by and inform you that you're missing a class, but also by the documentation for the game mentioning that Freshman truancy rates were too high last year so not attending classes is likely to end in the failure of a semester. Also noteworthy is the Sorcerer's Appliance having six dials – the first of which I was forced to use today. I'll separate this post into a few parts of their own to keep things from getting too cluttered in and of themselves, so here we go.

5:30 AM to 9:30 AM

The Sorcerer's Appliance – half phone booth, half wardrobe

5:30 to 6 AM is essentially an in-game cutscene where Ernie is assigned a 'task' – hang a moustache from the top of a statue. During my first play post, in exploring everywhere, I managed to climb up to the top – so instinct says this won't be too difficult. The first irritation comes from my own stupidity – I've gathered every last item I could find and thrown it down in my room, as there's a limited number of inventory spaces before Ernie can't hold anything more – unfortunately, this leaves me having to pick things up several at a time, wasting valuable turns. Still, I'm playing this rather shiftily, so I have time to read the always-entertaining newspapers. One article on hazing (saying it won't be tolerated – har har), one on the Blue Demons concert that one of our contemporaries has to throw a smoke bomb into, one on an injured Pokkaball player who had a piano dropped on him – and an explanation as to why the 'break glass' spellbox in the janitor's closet wouldn't open. It turns out that all glass on campus has had a 'shatterproofing' spell cast upon it. (This is a clue for later, for those keeping score.) However. The Sorcerer's Appliance awaits! Along with all of its assorted Attachments, naturally. To press both buttons at once requires completely empty pockets, so I'm assuming that the idea is that you can't bring anything inside. Opening it reveals a dial with six options (1-6) – options 2-6 require us to have a new Attachment.

The Sorcerer's Appliance: definitely no TARDIS. (Is the magenta supposed to mean 'dark', maybe?)

The only option which gets us anywhere, as such, is #1. It puts a dial and a lever onto the inside of the Appliance. The dial is in colours – red, yellow, green, blue and white. Pulling the lever gives a warning to evacuate the Appliance – it flashes with eerie mist for the effort after giving a '5 minute warning'. (I haven't tested what happens when we stay inside the appliance yet, but will do next time I run up the game.) Running back in shows a gem – the default red gives a ruby, the yellow a topaz.. I'm almost surprised that the game doesn't even go as far as to suggest that diamonds are often used for cutting glass (see, clue from earlier!) – but thankfully, my mind took the 'logical' step forwards without needing any further work. Still, there are three two hour classes ahead of us, so I decided to take the opportunity to go up and hang the moustache on the statue. I figured that perhaps the puzzle would involve getting past something, unlocking a door that wasn't locked earlier – but instead, 'someone' (Cowpatty, clearly) has oiled up the statue itself! Thankfully, my diamond is enough to obtain WOOSH from the janitor's closet.. unfortunately, it's too close to 9:30 AM and Spellcasting 201, the namesake class of the game.

Myself, I am more interested in knowing how they managed to oil the statue

9:30 AM to 1:30 PM

Not pictured: me slapping my head because nobody actually talks like this

This game, unlike its predecessor, immediately has Ernie taking notes as soon as he reaches his class. This was greatly appreciated, as there was nothing worse in 101 than forgetting that simple command for the surprisingly useful set of cribbed notes that comes of the action. The classes are a touch more interactive than they were in the freshman year in another welcomed change – you can stuff them up by simply pushing 'z' repeatedly as was the clear way to do things in the previous game. The class is also jazzed up quite a bit by fellow pledge Gary Dirtyjunkpile attempting to fulfil his first prank – repeatedly attempting to cast a swarm of hornets into the middle of the lecture. Thankfully, Professor Wartytoad is very forgiving of as much. There's also legitimate learning to be had yet again – after Ernie is asked to FRIMP (levitate) a 'metal doughnut' (which he can either do to the light applause of his peers or simply sleep through to the disappointment of the Professor). Everyone is then encouraged to close their eyes and cast BIP, the largely uncared about 'cast romantic tones' spell that every Sorcerer has in their spellbook by default. Because it's such a well-known spell by the students, they can cast it without even needing the words in front of them – good to know, given there are all of those manholes about campus leading into the sewer system! (Ten points.) After the class finishes at 11:30, this gives ample time to showcase my new knowledge of WOOSH..

I think it makes him look rather distinguished, myself

Stepping down from the newly de-oiled statue leads to a misstep nearly causing Ernie's death. This immediately made me think I'd done something terribly, terribly wrong – but instead, I'd unwittingly uncovered one of the five Great(er) Attachments of the Sorcerer's Appliance: the Sheet Metal Bender of Balmoral! I'd also managed my timing rather annoyingly, as getting through here forced me to sit by as the clock tower continually chimed into my ears (literally, due to the RealSound™ effect repeatedly blasting me). However, this also gave me a little clue as to something I'd not even suspected – within the clock tower's innards lies a spellbox of FOGWACKA (dehumidification)! Even though I don't really need it yet, I still tried everything I could think of to jam up the works. Unfortunately nothing worked, including FRIMPing the box, though I think that's possibly part of the solution – doing so on the hour lifts it out of place, but the 'bonger' (technical term I'm sure) is in the way of being able to lift it – but it's not particularly concerning to me as I don't yet need anything along the lines of a 'dehumidifier'. Still, it's the only spellbox that hasn't been snatched by me yet – I'm ashamed to admit that the PISEKS in the trophy case of HDP was obtained by.. opening the case and opening it. Didn't even get told off for it. Took the sextant too, because I've decided that were it up to me, I wouldn't be pledging to this house anyway.. and because it seemed more useful than the sexagenarian, the sexton or the dead roaches.


1:30 PM to 6 PM

Welcome to General Magic 201, in possibly the most boring room of the game

Professor Branmuffin seems to be the most caring Professor that we'll encounter (at least on these days) – unfortunately, this is also the least interactive class. He quickly sums through five different forms of sorcery-enabling plantlife that are common to Peloria (the continent we're on for those who didn't follow the previous game) – they're called the 'Figleaf Five'. Spatula Moss – the 'augmenting' leaf (nightvision is the most interesting thing listed here to my mind, but the mixture of it and squirrel vomit for a speed enhancement potion might help with Physical Skills tomorrow), Damnation Moss, the 'healing' leaf which 2 percent of all people are incredibly allergic to, the Simpleberry Shrub, a stealth-enabling leaf, the Dwarf Gekko Pine, used for immobilising and preserving, and the Southern Red Dragonwood or the Luggnut Tree (for transformation alchemy a la human-to-bird powders). I'm certain that all of this is very important, but it wasn't really as entertaining as the first class was, with both interactivity and humour largely missing to my mind.

Thankfully, this class is far more interactive

Whilst Alchemy 302, an 'introductory class', is similarly almost all information, it is presented in a far more interesting fashion. Professor Hiddenmolar is a bit of an arse, to put it politely – he makes it clear you can fail his class just because he 'doesn't like your face'. (Or are late with an assignment, or miss class – which both seem more likely to me.) Essentially, there are six items used in alchemy – Essence Weakening Compunds 1 & 2 (orange and blue fluid respectively), Positive/Negative Matter Transmuting Compound (MTC+/-, green or red powder) and Transmutatorial Accelerator/Dampener (Transelerator/Transtop, gray or brown flakes). He gives us a simple assignment of turning iron into copper, quickly running down the steps taken in doing such a thing, making it the assignment for the following lesson on Wednesday. Me being an inveterate cheater, I have the assignment completed before the actual class finishes – it's a paint-by-numbers, follow the formula puzzle that really doesn't need to be shown off in any real detail. Noteworthy, though, is the fact that Hiddenmolar unintentionally drops a key to his desk mid-sentence, which the eagle-eyed would steal happily. I am, fortunately, eagle-eyed.

6PM to bedtime

This entire scene is hilarious – and entirely optional

So, if I was not so damnably efficient, this would be the other obvious time to rush up and throw the moustache onto the statue. Thankfully for all of you who are reading out there, however, completing this gives the opportunity to wander around. For instance, I checked Hiddemonlar's desk with the newly filched key – it's empty, so I figure this is in the 'for later' basket. I realised rather quickly that I had the game on 'nice' mode when I made my way to the President's House again, searching it and realising there was a second floor. I hadn't realised this until the concert, where fellow pledge Sid accidentally fires a smoke bomb into the 'second floor' of it. Upstairs I found the President's Wife Hilda from the previous game and.. enjoyed a game of Gin Rummy with her. Stopping by the Malls n Muggers game is always fun, though annoying as you have to wait through the entire game – it always seems to 'start' from the same point no matter when you walk in on them – but I chose to spend the majority of my leisure time re-checking my map. There are a few manhole access points that I'd not listed down. The rock concert with the Blue Demons (who are essentially every rock and roll stage show you could think of melded into one) where Sid Danceswithsheep's efforts to throw a smoke bomb on stage are shown, repeatedly missing to the point that he actually ends up using a grenade launcher (and continues to miss!), climbs atop the stage and physically drops the bomb onto the head of one of the Blue Demons' players to the marvel and approval of the crowd is definitely worth a read. Particularly for something you just plainly don't have to do. Even if the choice of throwing chunks of raw animal flesh through the crowd doesn't exactly scream 'sanitary' to me. Come 9 PM, no matter where you are, the game drags you back to the HDP initiation room...

You can actually fail this, as I suggested...

Meretzky's fourth-wall humor continues to be utterly satisfying

I didn't punch him, Kenny, but will this do?

I must admit that the notion of having to do one of these 'pranks' every day does feel like it might wear a little thin, given not completing them is a loss – but so long as they continue to be funny enough, I'm imagining my complaints are for naught. Apologies for this coming up a little long – but it'd feel wrong to separate out things of 'day one', and all of this seems like it's necessary to complete the game! What's that you say? I sound daunted? Possibly!

It's official, I'm a hoarder

Session Time: 1 hour 30 mins
Total Time: 2 hours 30 mins

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. Coming up a little long? No. You're at 2,600 words. Most of my posts are 1,000 words longer... Er...

    Maybe the problem is with me and not you. :)

    1. I aim for 2,000 words before the no spoilers epilogue and 10-12 pictures. It feels like the right length to me as I'm all too apt to waffle on otherwise!

    2. Yes, it's you man.

      Nah... It's the game. Spellcasting 201 and its sequel is chock full of things to do and utterly fun.

  2. Great to see you are enjoying the game! The best bit about it is the world that feels so alive, with all the things happening around you, like the other pledges trying miserably to accomplish their tasks. And if I were you, I'd read that newspaper carefully every day - it helps to understand where the plot is progressing.

    A slight spoiler:

    Ng gur raq bs rnpu qnl, lbh pna yvfgra jung Puevf vf cynaavat sbe lbh gbzbeebj guebhtu gur nve iragvyngvba flfgrz.

    1. I'm not going to read anything that's ROT13'd unless I get stuck. (Well, until the end. It's killing me to keep the embargo up already! My mind knows enough in ROT13 to read 'at the' and that the proper noun is Chris, though.)

      As I might have hinted, whilst I'm not going to waste precious turns on it, I definitely plan to read the paper daily.

    2. Yeah, my spoiler won't probably help you anywhere at all, it's more of a yet another nice detail you might not have noticed.

  3. You mean this game has a plot? It's starting to look very slice-of-life to me...

    1. It is a bit slow to start, but yes, there's eventually some real plot.

    2. Rather than being slow, I'd say the game is preparing you for what is to come; just like Spellcasting 101.

      The classes and activities on campus slowly arms you with the necessary arsenal required to take on all the challenges of the game (or, at least, a means to get another item/spell that could), with plenty of chances to practice before the inevitable shitstorm hits.

      I'd equate the Spellcasting series as riding a rollercoaster. It starts off rumbling slowly upwards while you enjoy the view around you at increasingly higher altitude and then BAM! You're holding on for dear life.

    3. Yes, but unlike on a roller coaster (or a dubstep song), I have no feeling of anticipation of the drop here.

    4. That's the beauty of the Spellcasting series. It lulls you into thinking that you're well protected in a school filled with mighty wizards and powerful sorcerors then BAM! You're in the dungeons of Hogwarts.

    5. Unlike Hogwarts, where the experience includes brilliant foreshadowing and actual character development.

    6. Hey! You take that back about Spellcasting! Or I'm gonna throw a hissy fit and cry from an unbridled impotent rage!

  4. "this leaves me having to pick things up several at a time, wasting valuable turns"

    I don't remember, if it affects the turns, but have you noticed you can literally pick several things at once (GET X, Y, Z) (same works for many other commands like GIVE, also)? And that you can GET ALL, or GET ALL, BUT X, Y, Z?

    1. I, too, can't remember if it takes several turns but you definitely can get multiple items in a single command.

    2. Multiple in a single command yes. However, the parser complains if you put too much info into it at once. GET A AND B AND C or GET A, B, C works - but GET A AND B AND C AND D AND E has it complain that the command is too complex for it to parse. So yes, I can grab most essentials from Ernie's room in a few turns - but there's now so much in there that 'get all' is useless.

  5. Come on, Aperama. You're a wrestler, for crying out loud! A crummy kick on that creep Chris Cowpatty doesn't cut it! Punches! Punches to the gut, man!

  6. "I am, fortunately, eagle-eyed."

    And eagle-beaked!

    1. The sound of my groan echoes so far throughout time and space that my future descendants would be able to hear it in their Adromeda Space Colony.