Affairs of the Court Annoyances


#1

WARNING: There are spoilers below.

Ok, let me start by saying that I really loved Affairs of the Court. It’s not often that a fantasy game or novel puts me in a genuinely novel situation, one that I’ve never played before. For those who play a het male character this is a truly gender-bending scenario wherein your young & relatively powerless male noble is chased by an attractive & extremely powerful, but very much married Queen. Then once he’s attained her favor, and she’s attained his body, he’s forced to struggle to retain her heart even as her eye begins to wander towards the new young things in court. I recognize that for women being placed in this situation is almost par for the course, but for men this is, to say the least, highly unusual, and so I found the scenario both refreshing and thought-provoking. That said, I do have several constructive criticisms that I wish to express. First, let’s start with CoR…


Choice of Romance

  1. Why does relying on my charm cost me subtlety? - (Fixed in CoI!)

Women have traditionally been penalized for being direct, and for arguing publicly with men. In the Iberia of AotC however there is no Church teaching women to be submissive, and genders are considered equal. Nevertheless if you’re going to ditch historic realism for a more gender-equal society then don’t leave broken shards of that standard around when there is no longer a reason for them to exist. It’s really disconcerting to see your subtlety drop simply because you decided that an eloquently made persuasive argument was the most effective method of attaining your desired outcome. Just because I chose not to be subtle in a particular situation, doesn’t mean I can’t be extremely subtle when I choose in other situations. And even if we wish to say that this particular society encourages all young people to be silent in the presence of their elders, then the deduction for speaking up should have been to reputation, not subtlety. Thankfully the authors did away with all this in CoI, so this issue doesn’t exist there. Now if only it were possible to get rid of it in CoR too…

  1. I must get married? I thought this world was gender equal, why can’t I just get a job instead? -

In a society where all roles are open to both sexes, there is no reason why you couldn’t take the money your Uncle is using to pay for your expensive outfits and the rest of your expenses at court and instead invest that hefty sum into a new business venture you could lead. It would certainly make for a very different game. The gender-equality premise of the game shoots a big fat hole in the other premise that you have no other option but to go hunting for a rich spouse. There is no logical reason why your character of either gender needs to end up marrying an ill-tempered elderly person that smells like a goat and whose already adult children will inherit everything, leaving your character virtually penniless, just because you as a player have turned all three of your character’s suitors down during your season at court. That ending would have made more sense in a world where your character’s gender is considered the “weaker” one, because in this world of gender-equality, there is nothing stopping you from going out there and signing up for the military, the church, or even *gasp* becoming a merchant.

Given how fundamental both of these conflicting premises are to the game, I don’t really see an easy way to address this inconsistency. I suppose it’s possible to do a reverse of CoB and automatically designate the player character’s gender the “weaker” dependent sex, but that would likely require too much rewriting. So I suppose I’ll just have to chalk this up to a fundamental logic hole in the game concept and move on.

  1. Life Spell to give Same Sex Parents a Child = Lampshading -

I fully understand the idea of making the game more friendly to gay gamers, but this spell really has me scratching my head, particularly the male-male variety. So does the baby just appear out of thin air? In a vat? In a designated surrogate mother? Neither man has a womb after all. And if that’s possible for men, why wouldn’t women, even hetero ones, want their babies to appear out of thin air or a vat too? Who would want to suffer through 9 months of pregnancy + labor when she doesn’t have to? I’d like to see this spell better explained and worked into the story instead of simply handwaved.


#2

Continued…


Choice of Intrigue

  1. Enrique Rodriguez, what happened to my option to whack this scumbag with a stick? -

You have the option of -forcing- Rodriguez into casting the spell of life when you first meet him. I was reluctant to get rough with someone I didn’t know, someone who I thought might well be innocent of the crimes he’d been accused. I wanted to try some civilized dialogue first before whipping out my wand and blasting him. Nevertheless once I discovered just how despicable a scumbag he was, my option to force him had inexplicably disappeared. All I could do was either agree to commit the reprehensible murders he desired or refuse and walk away, forsaking my character’s one chance to give the Queen the heir that they both so greatly desired. I ended up quitting the game and restarting it, playing it exactly the same way until meeting him, and then instead of talking to him, beating the evil slimeball into submission until he agreed to cast the spell, and then threatening him to ensure he kept his end of it. Nobody should ever feel like they need to quit the game and restart because an option disappeared when it shouldn’t have, particularly an option as important to a major event in the game as this one.

  1. Adelita + Augustina + You, Why no threesome option? -

As a het male, finding my wife or lover in bed with another woman just doesn’t hit me as hard as finding her in bed with another man. Instead, after walking in on them, I was annoyed that I was forced to start shouting, and that my only options after that were to continue shouting, storm away, or cry. I wished I had the option of not shouting at all but to seductively suggest to Augustina that perhaps she might find enjoyment in having the attentions of both of us at the same time.

I’m also kind of surprised that the otherwise nearly universal tendency within the game of reversing character genders based on the protagonist wasn’t applied to Adelita. If the authors desired to hit het males as viscerally as they hit het females with the pain of betrayal, they should have made Adelita male for het males. Otherwise they should have given us the option of suggesting a threesome, because that’s exactly what a lot of us who were more titillated then offended would want to do.

  1. Since when did drinking tea make make my het male character feel like or pretend to be a grown up lady?

This is a very minor sort-of bug that slipped through the cracks, a mere nitpick compared to the others. I say sort-of a bug because the language isn’t actually incorrect, it just seemed to imply something that’s rather alien to most men. So as a male character it immediately dropped me out of my immersion in the story. Basically if you are black-hearted enough to agree to poison your brother in law and his little girl too, you can invite them to tea or wine. During the conversation Matteo pipes in to you and Rosa that “it’s quite a lot of fun to be invited to drink tea like a grown up lady”. You then murmur back “I remember those days”. Um, what? To have made the line gender neutral, the connection should have simply been made between tea and grown ups, not tea and grown up ladies, as if it was something that grown up men didn’t do. There’s also another version of the same dialogue that is attached to wine instead.


#3

I see why the Romance #2 problem bugs you, but personally, I got the impression that that was just a combination of society and your character’s upbringing; as a poor noble family, maybe that sort of thing just wasn’t done. It seems like a constraint to define the scope of the story. The point of Romance isn’t “You’re a poor noble – what do you do?” It’s “You’re a poor noble who’s seeking a spouse – what do you do?”

Romance #3… the mechanics of it didn’t really throw me so much as the fact that the King would bother to use it to create an illegitimate son. I mean… the text suggests “he must really care for his lover to have gone through with it”, and they say the rules are different for him, but… seriously, the bastard son is also supposed to be a minor scandal in the story, surely he knew he was just setting himself up for it.

Intrigues #2 is an interesting point. I didn’t get that scene the one time I played through it, so I don’t have a lot to say about it, but… considering how the player became involved with the monarch in the first place, maybe there should at least be some option that shows the player has made his or her peace with the inevitable promiscuity.


#4

@CPFace Romance#2 I’m fine with “You’re a poor noble who’s seeking a spouse”. I’m not ok with “You’re a poor noble who has no choice but to take a spouse within the next 6 months”. Given the supposed gender equality in the game, my character should still have had the same choices as any other poor male noble in history, ie. there’s no reason why he shouldn’t have been able to hold off on marriage until he’d established myself. Then once he’d attained some financial security, he could go looking for a spouse, traveling down the same avenue the game afforded to de Mendoza. Instead I felt railroaded into the decidedly unequal traditional female role of having no choice but to marry in order to secure my character’s future.

Romance #3 Yes it’s something of a minor scandal, but apparently Augustin(a) didn’t care.

Intrigue #2 Yep, we’re told very early on that Augustin(a) “frequently” takes young lovers of both sexes. I was thus fully expecting that my character would have to deal with something far more threatening than a brief daliance with an empty-headed girl that as a male, registered only mildly on my threat radar. The advantage of joining them is that it would have enabled my character to quietly monitor the relationship, maintain some control over it, score more points with his powerful wife by making the night even more fun for her, and possibly get some extra fun of his own in the bargain should he be able to eventually convince her to share Adelita with him. Regardless, allowing my character’s wayward wife to have her night of fun with Adelita while he secured the Spell of Life that would both give them a legitimate life mage heir and secure his position as her husband and consort, struck me as a worthwhile trade. It would have been -far- harder for me to be so cavalier about the whole thing had Adelita been male.


#5

Are you sure it’s gender equality and not gender inequality that switches to oppose whichever sex you pick?


#6

@Shoelip I’d say it’s both equal and unequal simultaneously. It all depends on where you’re pointing. :stuck_out_tongue: It’s equal treatment of all player characters, regardless of gender, since they all get discriminated against equally. Yet it is still unequal treatment inside of the game when compared to the other gender in that same game, but at least the hole in the logic behind the game would be gone. In such a society, you truly wouldn’t have any options aside from finding a spouse within the next few months. It’s an imperfect solution since it would require too much rewriting however.

I now think the best solution would probably be to simply allow a character that rejected all their suitors to pick a career and then give the player a nice little ending much like the one you get if you marry de Mendoza and stay faithful. You have to work hard, but you’re successful, and eventually you manage to find happiness. Now go back and pick Augustin(a) if you want to continue into Part 2. :stuck_out_tongue:


#7

Who made the Affairs at court, anyway? And is a new one being planned? :-?


#8

@Syndicate

  1. I know Part 1 (CoR) was written by Heather Albano and Adam Strong-Morse. I assume Part 2 (CoI) was as well.

  2. There are plans for a Part 3, but last we heard, work hasn’t started on it yet.


#9

@P_Tigras Thanks!!! :smiley:


#10

Romance #2 is kind of necessary, as you said. The thing about Affairs of the Court is that it is a pastiche of Jane Austen, and so your character is in the role of a poor young noblewoman (be you male or female) who needs to be married off to secure the family fortune. But what really kind of jerks the whole thing is that Gabriel(a) was able to escape the game on hir own, and you weren’t. (Of course, since this is a dating sim, “no mate means a bad ending” is a genre convention.)

Romance #1 fits, I think. If you’re relying on looking good and sweet-talking, especially in public, then you’re not fading into the background and manipulating things. Though the obvious case where you lose subtlety is where you use Booksmart. If you’re making a legendary speech in front of the crowd, you’re not going to be as able to hide your involvement in a poisoning. You’ve been noticed! Also, I think it’s a nice touch that the definition of Charm for a young lad or lass is somewhat different from the definition of Charm for the King or Queen Consort or the royal mistress. The lass should be cute and demure, the great lady should be beautiful and kind.

And Intrigues #1 and #2 also irked me, especially the first one. If you have the muscle to take down Enrique, you should be able to take him down after realizing what a scumbag he is, not just before.


#11

@Ramidel

While I agree that Romance #2 when applied to women is a genre convention, so too is gender inequality. If we do away with the latter, the former no longer has a reason to exist. Keeping it for young women, let alone expanding it to young men as well, just doesn’t make sense anymore, and comes across as forced and artificial. You should be able to escape just as Gabriel(a) did, by working hard and becoming successful on your own. There wouldn’t be a part 2 for you, but there isn’t a part 2 for anyone who doesn’t get involved with Augustin(a) anyway.

I see the idea behind Romance #1, but I think the subtlety penalty for speaking openly should only be applied in that situation, and not seriously hurt your subtlety in all future situations. Given that you’re very likely the monarch’s lover, and Augustin(a) has repeatedly, and very brazenly paraded you in front of everyone, you shouldn’t be able to avoid suspicion for his or her spouse’s poisoning regardless of how many legendary speeches you have or haven’t made. And why should giving a public speach make you more likely to leave evidence lying around? Furthermore, your reputation stat provides a perfect mechanism to determine how likely people are to suspect/blame you. A public speach or two shouldn’t make things worse for you regarding the poisoning unless they also included diatribes against the Royal Consort.

The definition of charm for a young lad or lass does not appear to be different in the game to me so much as the definition of subtlety. It’s your subtlety that gets killed nearly every time you’re openly charming in CoR. Being subtle on the other hand does not hurt your charm.

BTW, I’m not sure what you mean by the obvious case of losing subtlety is when you use Booksmart. I don’t recall any cases where using Booksmart cost my character subtlety.

Of all the annoyances I listed, Intrigue’s #1 & #2 bothered me the most too. Once you’ve attempted to talk to Enrique, you have all the more reason to blast the creep and force him to give you the spell of life. The disappearance of your option to blast the scumbag is inexplicable and extremely annoying. And should you walk in on Augustin(a) & Adelita, you shouldn’t be forced to yell and scream. In a world where same sex couplings are perfectly acceptable, and your mate is notoriously bi, the possibility for a threesome should be on the table, and suggestible at a minimum.


#12

What I meant is that the most obvious case where standing out loses you subtlety is when you use Booksmart, not Charm. That’s the point when you speak out in public.


#13

Ahh, that’s certainly the trope, where booksmart people are often depicted as overly wordy and verbose. Nevertheless, the best communicators can marry booksmart, charm and subtlety all together. Former President Bill Clinton was a master of that craft, able to tailor his words to the audience, whether it was a single individual in private or the entire country on national television. Regardless of whether or not he actually agreed with you deep down, you walked away feeling that he was not only really smart and knowledgeable, but also cared and would do what he could on your behalf. In the game, booksmart gave you more options, but didn’t really influence your ability to argue on behalf of those options. That’s where you needed charm or subtlety.

I’d also argue that charm helps subtlety. Without a certain amount of charm, subtlety is less likely to succeed. If subtlety is a well-hidden hook, charm is the bait that gets them to swallow it.


#14

I thought “Affairs of the Court” isn’t out yet? Or is that just supposed to mean the whole series?


#15

Yep, that’s what it means. AotC is CoR and CoI.


#16

Yup, what Ramidel said.


#17

so does it annoy anyone else that the only possible stat for combat is magic and that you never hear anyone using a sword at court I understand that when everyone has magic its kind of useless, however it seems like as long as your magic is good you somehow know hand to hand combat.


#18

@tarix I can easily see how this game can be annoying to those gamers, especially male gamers, who weren’t expecting to have their character forced into a traditional female role. Traditional female roles aren’t exactly combat-heavy, nor do they generally involve much sword-swinging. Instead this game centers on social intrigue of the sort faced by the wives and mistresses of King Henry VIII, and in this gender-equal LGBT-friendly dystopia, you get to play the “wife” or “mistress”.

Adding a sword skill would have required adding additional combat as well to make the new skill useful. While the additional action -might- have improved the game (i believe opinions on this one will vary from person to person), it would -definitely- have changed the feel of the game into something altogether different, and the Henry VIII vibe would have been lost.


#19

@P_Tigras Eh, I don’t think that a mistress being able to wield a rapier would terribly damage the Henry VIII/Jane Austen vibe of the setting, especially since the mistress can and does wield Death Magic.

As you said, though, the problem would be that it adds a second, redundant, combat stat, which would require adding problems that are best solved with the sword. By contrast, a magic stat (which is a highly physical form of magic!) makes things flavorful, and reinforces the idea that Death Magic is the sword of the Iberian nobility. It’s also a stat that will factor into AotC 3 fairly heavily, given two fairly well-foreshadowed hints from 2 (a duel with Juanita and the invention of industrial magic).


#20

@Ramidel

I just want to clarify that I don’t have an issue with the mistress being able to wield a rapier, and in fact, she/he can. I just don’t see the point in adding a stat for it unless it’s going to be useful, and that means more combat, and that I believe would change the flavor of the game.

There are plenty of old tales that involve noble women that can use magic, far more than there are of women with swords. Magic can also be used more subtlely than the sword, and that dovetails more smoothly with the traditional feminine value of subtlety, which is arguably the most valuble stat in the game. (It’s certainly the one with the most opportunities to use.) You cast -most- of your spells from the privacy of your own room, and when you don’t, you tend to raise eyebrows, like at the masque or the tourney. So magic, even death magic, is a better fit for the Henry VIII/Jane Austen vibe than continually swinging a sword around.