The Reliques of Tolti-Aph — 23 of 57

Graham Nelson

Release 1

Section S(b) - The Journal and Orion

The player is carrying a new-looking journal. The journal is paper. Understand "new" as the journal. Instead of examining the journal: say "Magic-users are trained to keep a journal, lest their discoveries be forgotten, or possibly just to give them a vehicle for their self-importance which doesn't involve world subjugation. Yours is divided into entries named after stars in the constellation of Orion, so clearly there's no self-importance there.

(Try TURN JOURNAL TO RIGEL for a sample of the sort of twaddle you wrote in your distant student days, which finished, oh, three or four weeks ago now.)"

An Orion star is a kind of value. The Orion stars are defined by the Table of Journal Entries.[1] Journal-turning it to is an action applying to one thing and one Orion star. Understand "turn [something] to [Orion star]" as journal-turning it to. Understand "look up [Orion star] in [something]" as journal-turning it to (with nouns reversed). Understand "turn to [Orion star] in [something]" as journal-turning it to (with nouns reversed). Check journal-turning: unless the noun is the new-looking journal, say "That has no star references." instead. Carry out journal-turning: say the corresponding journal entry of the Orion star understood; say paragraph break. Before writing: if the second noun is the journal, say "You have vowed not to write in this journal until your expedition is complete." instead.

Table of Journal Entries

star namecorresponding journal entry
betelgeuse"13th Tortoise 346. Old Scrofulax at his worst today - double Memory, went on for what seemed like forever. Keeps losing segments of apple in his beard. But it wasn't useless, for once. For the first time we got scrolls to practice on, only scrolls with 'encourage watercress' inscribed on them but you have to start somewhere, like Scrofulax says, and anyway you wouldn't want to live in a world where watercress goes unencouraged, would you? So I did my very first 'memorise'. Didn't quite work, but for a while I could have encouraged some grass, I suppose. Like always, they made us do it twenty times over. And then they made us walk under this big talisman thing that wiped our minds empty again! How are we ever going to learn? 'Memorise' is supposed to give you the permanent ability to cast the spell written on the scroll, but huh, we got it for only an hour and a half."
rigel"1st Leopard 342. First day at the Collegium! Big cold dormitory and HUGE books but yummy custard and Migstipple, in Class IVa, says he can do 'know nature' but he's a big liar and my grandfather can do 'exorcise undead' which is loads better."
bellatrix"6th Camel 347. They took away our wooden amulets today. Funny, when you're a little squit, you see the big kids walking around with nothing on their wrists and you can't wait, but it feels - wrong. Turns out they weren't just wood, but magic-imbued wood, and they were doing all the spells, not us. Or anyway they provided all the strength. I never realised, but when you cast a spell, it costs you a bit of strength, and that's why they're all so obsessed with teaching us to measure our STR all the time. So they made us cast a 'detect trap' on our own, and Migstipple had to sit down and his face was dead white. Mood over dinner pretty subdued. This isn't going to be quite as easy as we all thought."
mintaka"38th Swallowtail 347. Total exhaustion. Endless exercises with focuses. It seems that what counts isn't the focus itself, like it looks in all the paintings - the wizard holding up the silver lamp, and all that - but the material it's made of. And you need the right material or the spell won't work. Except, some spells don't need a focus at all! Or something. So tired I couldn't even hear what Babbington was saying at the end. When are they giving us our amulets back? When?"
alnilam"2nd Leopard 348. Big day, worth a great big new star in the old journal, oh yes. My first really big spell. Can't remember why I chose 'exorcise undead' for my optional subject this year, except it sounded pretty eldritch. And today the first real casting. Shock of my life when the blunt old sword I'd picked up for a focus vanished right out of my hands! Migstipple gave me a vial of strength potion to get me back on my feet, and yeah, it turned out the zombie squirrel had been struck back down to the underworld which was way cool, but what happened to the sword? Thought I'd dropped it, which would have been just too lame. Babbington didn't even laugh, for once, was pretty decent about it. Turns out that a really big spell drains the focus right out of existence - and this was a really big spell. Still worried about my acne though."
alnitak"14th Turtle 347. Don't know why I bother with this journal in the summer vac, but I guess it's just a habit now. Great-great-grandfather's place up in the mountains is not as ruined and desolate as I'd hoped, and it looks as if people tidy up so much that there's no chance of finding a few scrolls he left behind. The study's kind of interesting, though. No secret passages yet. Spun the globe a while, thinking it might do something. Doesn't, though. Reading a dusty old book called Reliques of Tolti-Aph, but I don't believe a word of it."
tabit"The TABIT entry is crossed out almost immediately, since you decided that spelling it THABIT would be more sinister."
thabit"42nd Piglet 346. Combat exercises, out in the rain. When they tell you in class that only defensive and offensive spells can be cast during combat, you look superior and think 'until me, anyway'. Turns out they're not kidding, it's harder to spell-cast when you're distracted by some cave troll. Not that we practice on real cave trolls. 'Very well, Mr Migstipple,' said Babbington wearily, 'but at least swing that club as if you have some idea what a blunt instrument is, would you?' Tchah."
algiebba"29th Goshawk 346. They made us distinguish strength potions this morning. 'Would you say this was yellow, tan or ochre?' Got fed up and told Swarthwater the potion in question was definitely tannish-yellow and not yellowish-tan. Did not expect this to be the right answer."
mankib"3rd Camel 346. Everyone still having trouble with colour-coded strength potions. Makes them angry that I know carminine from crimsonish from scarletesque. Crabheart brought me her juice to identify at dinner. I said it was applish-brown, and also poisoned. She pretended not to believe me, but Migstipple says he saw her cast 'detect trap' afterward to be sure."
hatsya"2nd Tortoise 343. Odds exam in two days. Spent the entire afternoon making charts and trying to memorize. The older kids say there will be essay questions: when is a 1d10 weapon better than 2d3+1? When is it worse? Which would you wield against a gnome? Etc. Swear my head will explode. Wish everything used the same base, at least. What would be so wrong with it all being d20?"
nair al saif"17th Mallard 348. Morning after the night before. No more lessons, no more ceremonies, no more custard. Can't quite get a handle on this. Thought Scrofulax didn't have to look quite so smug when he erased our experience points right back down to 0. I know, I know, the school ones aren't real experience, but they were hard enough to pick up, and now I'm just a level 1 nobody with NO EXPERIENCE AT ALL."
saiph"29th Mallard 348. If this wretched forest goes on any longer, I'll turn into a tree myself. I mean, don't the gods ever think, right, I'd like some variety now, let's put a glacier down here and maybe a few sandy beaches?"
meissa"31st Mallard 348. Nearly there, according to the sketch I made from the old globe. Seems the first I see of Tolti-Aph ought to be the Longwall, and that must be gigantic if the engravings in Reliques are anything to go by."
orion"That's the whole constellation, not a single star."
orion nebula"That's a nebula, not a star. Hence the name."
m42"That's a nebula, not a star."
m43"That's a nebula, not a star."
belt"That's a collective name for several stars."
trapezium"That's a collective name for several stars."


[1]. The play-testers were distinctly piqued by the idea that they were supposed to remember the names of the stars of Orion from general knowledge, and transcripts showed that the most popular response was to try everything in the Wikipedia entry. The Table tries to cater for all the variant names used in popular references, but in any case contains no really crucial information: and as one reaches the more obscure stars, it communicates less and less. All the same, it was the play-testers' annoyance about Orion that led to the writing of the game's "feelie", the spoof Collegium magazine, which includes clues on Orion and excuses for many odd things about the rules.