Professor of Magical Studies (was: Advanced Studies in Pattern Magic) - WIP (Updated 1 Jan 2022)

“Look who is the little Hermione” :sweat_smile::sweat_smile:

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literally me when i give darcy a second chance for the 543rd time. and i’ll do it again

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Loving the newest update, however I just found an interesting spot and I’m not sure if it’s cause of interpretation confusion or if it’s an actual error.


I got this from Darcy after choosing to let The Lodger(mine is named Pyra ^.^) fix the pattern that Dr. Wilcox had locked. I mean it could be a case of me not helping afterwards, even though I(Pyra) did the heavy lifting of sealing the effects without disruption of Wilcox’s pattern, but it still feels like that should happen differently.

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Wish I’d found this WIP earlier! Some impressions:

General Comments

The first few chapters are great, and it’s really engrossing. The memory spell was a fantastic way to weave in the flashbacks and the PC’s background too; the PC’s back and forth with Darcy and Manish and how things are described really sell how that it’s a lived-in world. By the end of it, though the PC’s junior, you can they exude confidence and experience by their way of thinking and reacting. It’s all completely reflexive to them.

The colour and detail given to the disciplines give the world colour, I like how magic’s both portrayed as dangerous and some practices are strange to us, but to the PC and the others it’s not that special. The in-jokes, the pranks, the things like that. I was more focused on the careerist/research themes rather than the threat of the Vastness initially, but it’ll be interesting to see how that turns out.

I warmed up to the characters pretty quickly. Though they are a bit tropey, it was easy to get a handle on all of them and I did look forward to conversations. Darcy had the most screentime, and though they’re a two-faced git, I enjoy their exuberance as much as I do the banter between them and the PC, especially when the PC refuses to play ball (especially whenever Darcy tries to hold a conversation in secret). There’s a good variety in trying to politick around Darcy, both going full cutthroat and more conciliatory, though I’d perhaps like a few more neutral responses.

Wilcox is abrasive, but it’s also pretty fun to get a leg over him when you can without any real qualms. Having someone to act as a mentor to isn’t so common in these games, so having that sort of relationship with Gabriel made for a nice change of pace, and I’m interested to see how he develops given the revelations in the later chapters around Blankenship.

I haven’t gone through the other ROs, but they seemed a welcome break from the university stuff. Manish especially, trying to rekindle an old friendship and mend old wounds, with beer in the background, of all things.

Being a faculty member was surprisingly enjoyable. A surprising highlight came early on, with all the potential prep work you could do. Even if you only got to see a fraction of that per playthrough, and perhaps wasn’t all that important, choosing how to set up your classes or lab I felt was a significant part in establishing the present-day PC’s character. The lessons themselves, when they come, are a welcome break from all the politicking (which I nonetheless enjoy). Having Inez and Erick around help prevent it from being too abstracted and detached; I’ve become a bit invested in ensuring that they get through the Vastness mess, by the end.

Given how much (allegedly) Ellison thinks well of the PC, I’d have liked a few more opportunities to speak to her outside of some catastrophe, but I understand how that might be limited in-story and for narrative reasons (though a high-politics PC with their ear to the ground would hear things, surely).


ROs, Screen Time and Pacing

With my PC dating Darcy in the past, most of my focus was on the interplay between the two of them, both professional and personal and I found it quite enjoyable. It’s good that there’s such a variety of options in the former, the ability to try (or not try, especially) to get ahead through cut-throat means or not; getting a response from them’s been a reliable source of catharsis, especially when they grudgingly attempt to admit having made some error. Those interactions are also where it seems like the PC has the most agency too, where your actions clearly have consequences, whether it be Darcy blowing up or a branching scene.

Darcy flip-flopping on changing is a little repetitive by C8, though, so I hope that changes. I’d have also liked some more options to try and be neutral/unflapped, refusing to either concede to Darcy or be antagonistic, but I guess Darcy would see that negatively as well. Also there’s no real advantage from it, but I’d have liked to be able to socialise with Darcy again in C5 after clearing the stockroom with them, just to get the “No more petty bullshit” scene.

By the time of Chapter 6 in my first playthrough (which is where I guess the ROs are locked in?) Darcy was a shoe-in, not only because of the past history, but because they showed up the most, seemed to have the most content and seemed most involved with the main plot. Compared to the first 3 chapters, a lot of time passes by in C4-C5, which. While the PC is described as busy, and there’s the problem of balancing work and life outside of it, time went by unexpectedly fast in my first playthrough. This, for me, overshadowed the other characters a bit.

Kayla and Manish basically disappear after their introduction unless you go out of your way to choose their scenes. Manish I get, for Kayla I didn’t initially catch that. The faculty peer stuff implied that there’d be a mandatory scene (“To top it all off, you’ll have meetings with Kayla King that you’ll have to fit into your schedule along with all the rest of your work.”) so I unknowingly skipped the scene where the collaboration is brought up. Given that it’s brought up again in C6 (“I say that it’s going really well.” isn’t entirely clear on whether it was the PC lying or not about actually working with Kayla), that it wasn’t addressed in the interim seems a little odd.

So, it seems, if you want romance, the game incentivises you to choose an RO early and to stick with it. If you’re certain, that’s no problem, but if you’re not, I guess it might be harder. I think that if there was more explicit notice that you have limited time and need to make the most of your socialisation opportunities, it wouldn’t be so bad. I think this is especially the case if you volunteer to clear out the stockroom, which takes up a unit of time in C5. I understand that’s part of the balancing act (which I enjoy trying to do), but on reloading the saves I’m not sure whether that’s worth it; you’re forced to increase Lodger control or take damage, and Darcy doesn’t even admit their pettiness in it.

I wonder if it won’t feel so hurried if the ROs to show up in relation to the main plot at least once more in C4 or C5 (especially those involved in the Billington Futures plot, which really goes unaddressed until the theater incident). If you have a positive rapport with Kayla from the luncheon, I think there’s some argument for her C4 scene to be a “free” trigger, as it also provides some otherwise-unaddressed explanation as to how the PC and their co-workers cover up their activities.

Alternatively, could it be possible for the PC to squeeze a little more out of their free time by making more sacrifices? For instance, leaving the theatre early in C4 to squeeze in two meetings downtown? Or abuse channeling (as shown in C1) to get one more thing done before the Winter party at the cost of damage?

Of course, I’ll understand if this is too against the planned themes of the balancing act.


It also felt that, with the time skip, some of the earlier flavour was lost. C1-3 had quite a few callbacks to previous choices and character creation, which helped the immersion quite a bit. There are later opportunities where I’d wished that was also the case, even if just flavour text rather than a unique choice.

Jayden trying to flex his mother’s credentials when you catch him trying to cheat feels like the perfect time for the old-blood, well-connected PC to try and cut Jayden down to size. The magic researchers’ child who lost their parents to a portal incident would surely have some reaction to Blankenship coming back – but not their parents.


Chapters 7 and 8

I admit I did feel a little disgruntled with C7 and C8, but it’s a bit hard to put to words. I think it’s ultimately a combination of a lack of urgency from the PC compounded by a lack of consequence which culminates with the end of C8.

The first thing is a passivity from the PC which remains despite their temperament or player choice. While earlier passivity was reasonable as the PC was a new, inexperienced faculty member deferring to superiors or getting outplayed by those more experienced, there was a feeling that you could still make moves of your own: meeting Kayla to look good for the president, meeting Taylor without Darcy being there etc. They’re potential ROs, but those interactions were also political plays: Ellison didn’t order you to do so. Actions had consequences, either in the short term (especially when it’s with Darcy), or they promised something in the long term.

Yet despite prior experiences with the danger of the Vastness – from chapter 1 no less – the PC seems very passive about all of that, and this is particularly galling from the Lodger’s appearance onwards. If the PC finds the thin spot in the theater in C4, the PC can’t mention it before something goes wrong with Gabriel, and it’s never addressed, which makes the theater’s explosion in C8 frustrating. If the PC’s parents disappeared due to a portal incident, that doesn’t seem to have an effect on their reaction to Blankenship, despite it shaking them to their core in the past.

There isn’t the choice or a hint of background flavour text where the PC knuckles down on getting the Lodger out of their head at any cost; by the start of C7, no matter what you think of the Lodger, the PC doesn’t seem too irritated about the Lodger’s presence, with only the occasional – and rather minor – outburst. The incidents building up might come to the attention of the PC, but they don’t do anything about it. They can’t try to investigate it, or bring their concerns up to Ellison; it’s not addressed in terms of trying to keep your head down to preserve your career, either.

Blankenship in particular seems to get this sort of plot armour. There are options to try and undercut Blankenship, but being forced to share classes and to go to him at the end weakens perceived agency and the impact of stat checks. But the main thing is that you can’t be suspicious at all of him and his motives – the PC instinctively trusts them, no matter their temperament or background, which leads to the ambush at the end. Ellison’s test allegedly gives the all clear – but I’d argue that the choice to be suspicious should still be there. I personally felt he was a sleeper agent from the start, which by the end of C8 only exacerbated my reaction to the PC’s actions, or lack of.

For the player, the danger of things crossing from other dimensions is repeated; even in C7, there’s “You realize that you may not get to let Blankenship live.” What’s more, the PC seems very blasé when it comes to accidents occurring throughout C7 and C8. Again, the PC would deal with the consequence of something, but never get around to investigating it in the long run, simply shrugging it off. Consequently, at the end of C8, my PC went to visit Blankenship and let themselves get tortured and bound with me extremely frustrated that they’d be so trusting of this guy who dropped out of nowhere, when I’d have at the very least liked some the PC to have some inkling of suspicion or caution. You can’t get frustrated at how everybody seems to have lost the ball, either.

Open antagonism towards Blankenship is also much less than you can exert towards the Lodger or Darcy. You can attempt to block him, but that’s largely in a polite fashion and for the sake of the PC’s career rather than on a more emotional basis. There’s no option to be openly antagonistic or as dirty as you can towards the other two. I was hoping for the opportunity to blow up at Blankenship over the students, no matter the effect on my career, or at least have rumours circulate among the studentship afterwards. You could suffocate Wilcox, attempt to kick Darcy to the ground, but here it seems like you have to sympathise with Blankenship no matter what.

If the PC’s undergoing some sort of impairment in their judgement or is affected by the fluctuations like everybody else seems to be in C8, that wouldn’t be so bad, but that would be yet another thing messing with the PC’s mind – and the player’s agency – which would be getting a bit repetitive.


Another way this passivity/lack of consequence manifests is in stat checks. There seem to be generally fewer in C7 and C8, or at the very least, they’re less impactful. At other times, having high stats seems to have no consequence when it perhaps should. High progress with Gabriel, letting him have Summers or working with him on the water pattern doesn’t seem affect whether he goes ahead with it or not. Despite given warning of the theater explosion by the Lodger, the PC doesn’t even try to do anything and sits there, more concerned about mind control than being blown up.

I think the potential blow-up with Darcy was the only moment of relief in C8, albeit one undercut by your stats check not really mattering. Darcy still tries to undermine you and the stat checks have no influence over Ellison’s decision, but thankfully at least you could get a reaction out of Darcy – even if the most positive one, it seems, is having them left “bereft”, which is a bit repetitive if you’ve had a high rel throughout.

The most galling, though, is when Blankenship binds you at the end. It seems completely the same, regardless of temperament or stats. On its own that’s fine, but it’s the culmination of a number of events that were unaffected by my prior decisions in quick succession. I finished the scene feeling particularly frustrated, rather than in awe of the power used against my PC. Not frustrated that they were bound – I understand that there’s plot reasons behind it – but despite the effort made in raising stats, there’s really no apparent or significant consequence.

I admit that this was partially exacerbated by the ability to save and reload, but this would probably be an issue in repeat playthroughs too. Mainly though, it’s only the latest of a series of events where the PC is left helpless to do anything and is blasé about it. I’m not asking for the ability to break it, but even the slightest ability to make Blankenship work for it if you’ve high enough stats, or be driven enough to the point where your lip bleeds from refusing to scream, would be enough.

Something a bit more than “A curve near the edge of the pattern straightens.” for those who’ve really put in the effort. Or even just the ability to swear you’ll rearrange Blankenship’s intestines or spit at him at the end. I guess it’ll also depend on how Chapter 9 starts too.

Nonetheless, while I was frustrated somewhat, Chapter 8 definitely left me chomping at the bit for revenge!


Typos

Chapter 2

Even though you worked on your class this morningand have the potential to make great strides on the service component of tenure thanks to Taylor


Chapter 4

"“The answer’s in our fermenters and bright tanks. I’ve got multiples so we can ferment different beers and then let them settle out before we put them in kegs for serving.”

Double parentheses at the start of the line


“Oh, you went here as an undergrad?” Kayla leans forward, the circular lenses of her glasses catching the light. “So you didn’t need a tour of campus at all.”

“Some things have changed,” you say. “Though not the Coffee Hut.”

“You’ll have to give me a walking tour. Show me campus beyond Gilman Hall and the parking lot behind Gilman Hall.” She takes in the students filling the tables. “Did you study here?”

I think this is a continuity error, especially if the PC mentions they were an undergrad at WP during the luncheon


Chapter 6

“Looks like someone’s the teacher’s pet.”, Darcy says.

Punctuation - full stop, parentheses, comma?

I wish I could be more concise, but either way I hope some of that feedback’s useful. Definitely looking forward to see how this develops!

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@KamenSentaiRed Yeah, I agree. I’ll fix that.

@Thfphen110, thanks for the detailed feedback! It’s very helpful, especially knowing what didn’t work for you as well in chapters 7 and 8. I’ve made extensive notes and have some thoughts about how to address it.

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Is the amount of startup funds you’re given at the beginning of chapter 2 random or dependent on a stat? In some playthroughs, I’m given $20,000 but in others, I’m only given $15,000 or $10,000.

It varies depending on how good you are at negotiating your starting package, which in turn depends on how good you are talking or politicking, whichever is higher. I’ll make that clearer in the game.

Oh my gosh, I LOVE this WIP. I’m an Assistant Professor myself, so I was stressed playing the game as early as in Chapter 2, but with a bit of tweaking and careful combing of the code, I think I’m doing all right.

I adore Gabriel and his pink socks, I want to punch Jayden even more than I want to punch Darcy and Desmond combined, and I already want to be besties with the Lodger .

I have some questions re: relationships and stats.

Relationships

In one playthrough, I started with a 20% relationship with Darcy in Chapter 2. My PC had not romanced Darcy and confronted them in that one, but left at the end. In the other playthrough, my PC romanced Darcy, confronted Darcy, threw coffee at Darcy, and then had a relationship of around 10% with Darcy. Did confronting them and our subsequent behaviour have an impact?

More importantly, is Kayla an RO? Because from the first post it seems that she is, but to make things easier, at the beginning I had made all my ROs male and she’s still female, so I’m worried my PC won’t be able to romance her, even though the two get along like a house on fire and would be perfect together.

Coming back to Darcy, I was low-key hoping for a friends to lovers to enemies to rivals to friends to lovers storyline but I hate them with a burning passion and wish I could have them kicked out. They don’t seem to have matured at all, and their tic of constantly running their fingers through their hair is unnecessarily aggravating me.

Stats

I love the fact that we have all these hidden stats that change the flavour of the story and I was wondering if you could include an option to view these hidden stats? I currently think I’m sarcastic and the opposite of tweedy, but I cannot be sure. It would be fun to know!

I found the Symposium discussion with Darcy and Taylor very tough to get through. Playing as a mostly relaxed introvert with high rhetorical ability, research skills, and pathos, I felt that my options were very limited. I failed most stat checks because we only had three options and not more at times (like suggesting whether the symposium should be practical/theoretical/third option I forget). And the one option that I could have easily picked - helping Darcy empathise with Taylor - I didn’t, because it increased Darcy’s standing with Taylor! And seriously fuck Darcy I hate that bish. Would’ve been nice if I’d made myself look good instead.

Random things I noticed

Hayden got misgendered here.

I was wondering if it was intentional for our relationship with both Darcy and Manish(a) to improve if we said we’d rather work alone? I thought they might have disliked that!

I found a couple of typos here and there but since you’re not looking for those, I didn’t bother mentioning them.

In conclusion, this is an amazing, wonderful, brilliant, and hilarious story and I sincerely hope Kayla is an RO. (From the main post, it appears that she is.)

Edit:

Holy crap, what? This is everything to me!

Thank you so much! I’m keeping my fingers crossed. One last question, do you still have to hide the world of magic from her even when you’re in a serious relationship? Because it would suck to keep such a huge secret from someone you love.

2nd Edit: Chapter 8 didn’t feel like too much to me. If anything, I’d found Chapters 2 and 3 more stressful, but now my PC is mostly able to coast by and is “far ahead” in everything, thanks to all the cheating I did by constantly checking the code. I really appreciate the fact that not meeting skill checks allows us to raise our skills for next time. I also like the fact that I can keep telling the Lodger to not take control very politely and ensure that I retain autonomy as well as a high relationship with them. I love the pacing of the book overall, and how the tension sort of builds up. The threat of the Vastness is terrifying and will probably give me nightmares. And I love seeing Summers pop up every now and then; can’t feel badly about the hit my research took if I get to see that cutie in my lab. I had a high enough rhetoric skill to convince Gab to send Summers back but I’m glad I didn’t. .

Edit 2: Yayayayay! Kayla and my PC kissed! She’s my girlfriend now. Stupid Vastness better not come in and mess with me while I’m trying to build a relationship here.

Also I kind of need to get the Lodger out yesterday. I have zero idea of how Physics works but I am imagining us getting a cloud of … ionised? particles (is that a thing? What does it mean?) and attaching them to it and then putting them in a jar so that the particles don’t disperse. :sunglasses: I presume the way it’ll happen in the book will be a lot more sophisticated!

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I haven’t tried an all-male run yet but in my all-female run with a male PC Kayla was romanceable.

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I don’t really remember but you can tell her about Dr. Blankenship’s return and vent about what Gabriel did.

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Ohhh! The missing Professor returns? And Gabriel does something? Aagh don’t give me any more spoilers; I’ve been getting along so damn well with good ol’ Gab.

Edited: I noticed something off in Darcy and Kayla’s interaction during the Swinter Soiree (lol) and thought I’d mention it here? Is it possible for them to be each other’s faculty peers?

Darcy and Kayla's Relationship

But … But she is MY faculty peer! Back off, Darcy. Stupid fool trying to take my fellowship, then Gabriel, and now my faculty peer. Should it not be the other way round? If she’s paired off with us, she won’t know Darcy?

And if there is an option for them to be each other’s faculty peers, then Darcy shouldn’t look confused when making small talk with her? (Darcy says, “so you do math?” regardless of her faculty peer status).

I feel like there should be an option for Darcy to sound more knowledgeable here if they actually are paired off with her?

Also, I adore Kayla, to the point that every time she says something, I smile and want to screenshot it so I can keep it forever, like we did back when someone said something memorable on Snapchat and we needed to preserve the memory. I’m torn between romancing her and the lodger but she’s winning by a wide margin. I just love how we can be smarty pants together and also have each other’s backs and it’s more about our emotional and intellectual vibe than pure physicality. I look forward to romancing the other ROs in other playthroughs too, but Kayla is very, very loveable.

Highly Emotional and Probably Unfair Rant on Darcy

And finally, why TF is Darcy so intent on making us sit with our department? Ughhhhh right now I feel like they’re being forced down my throat and it’s making me angrier with each passing chapter. Seriously, please, I need a break from Darcy. I had to volunteer to do the symposium and cleaning just to limit their progress in the department, but it feels like wherever I go, they’re breathing down my neck and I don’t like it. Kind of reminds me of an abusive ex who kept violating boundaries and it’s making me uncomfortable. Maybe it’s my fault for having my self-insert PC romance them in the first place, back when they were still violating boundaries and steam rolling everyone else’s wants and needs, but now that comparison is there and I feel triggered and the only way out would be to either spend a LOT less time with Darcy or push back against them a lot more! Like, really push back. Without the game trying to guilt me for throwing them under the bus.

This is like saying that water reminds you of a liquid, except in this case the water also keeps backstabbing you.

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Haha, I’m not calling Darcy abusive. The only character I’d say that about would be Jun from Samurai of Hyuga.

I’m just saying their need to constantly pester you when you do your utmost to ignore them can get grating. I need breathing space from the character but they seem to pop up everywhere and make their presence felt. At the holiday party, for example they trick you into sitting with your department for no reason, then foist that pattern on you and attempt to talk to you and, if you ignore them, begin to wheedle you. I would like for there to be fewer such interactions, if possible. In that sense, yes, water does remind me of other liquids since water has characteristics in common with other liquids.

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Sorry for the slow replies. The last week has been about two months long!

@HappyPotato, I’ll hide my replies to you below.

HappyPotato Answers

If you were dating Darcy, then your relationship with them in Chapter 2 is worse. In effect your relationship had much further to fall, and betraying someone you’re dating is worse than if you weren’t dating.

I saw you got your Kayla question answered. :smiley:

Oh hm! It’s on my to-do list to go back through and make sure I’m taking those into account more often if I’m going to keep them. I’ll think through whether to reveal them or not at that point.

Oh, that’s good to know. I’ll review that section.

That’s actually tracking how Darcy and Manish feel about each other. They can end up dating, and will turn you down if you try to date one of them.

(I always forget people will look at my code. I should be tidier with it!)

I actually love your idea!

It is – if you’re not Kayla’s peer, then she gets assigned to Darcy. But that code is completely backwards! And good catch that he shouldn’t be confused about her work if they’re peered.

Thanks for letting me know. I’ll add that to the things-to-re-assess-when-I-finish-a-full-draft pile.

Thanks for the feedback and suggestions. It really helps!

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Oh wow, thank you for responding! I went back and read my comment and some of it was super whiny, so now I’m even more blown away by how kind and receptive you were to everything. I had seen the option for Manish(a) and Darcy to date and was possessive at the time (not knowing about Kayla’s existence really messed up young me’s expectations re: ROs) but I think I’ll let it happen this time. :DD And I’ll ensure I avoid Darcy and try to get ahead without volunteering for things with them. Thanks for the clarification re: their and PC’s relationship level in Ch2! It does make a lot of sense!

Edit: Oh my gosh PLEASE keep the hidden stats! It’s so hilarious to have a slightly different personality in each playthrough, regardless of whether we can see them or not!

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I like the premise sounds Doctor strange especially with the teasing of other worldly horrors haha. I’ll have to give the demo a shot when I can