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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 3:16 am 
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I want to start a new thread for people who have finished the game here, to keep the puzzle-hint thread free of clutter and spoilers.

General questions:
- What exactly is the timeline of events on the Retort? What were each of the crew members really up to pre-accident? What actually caused the accident?
So Anderes was almost certainly smuggling reagents, with Ctesc helping in return for forbidden books.
Powes was secretly sabotaging Ctesc's reagents, for reasons unknown.
The captain was having a love affair with Ctesc.
Even we (assuming we are the same person in the main game as in the epilogue) are handing Ctesc illicit books in exchange for some of the knowledge.
It sure seems suspicious that everybody is connected to Ctesc in some way. It's also interesting that each crew member, except Ctesc, ends up in the room with a dragon. Were they all simultaneously tampering with the dragons for some reason? Or are their echoes still around because they happened to be in rooms with dragons?
Ctesc himself doesn't seem to do anything suspicious, and ends the game in the library. If he's responsible for the accident, there's no evidence he did anything directly to cause it.
And of course the alien oil has somehow infiltrated the ship, placed graffiti in random places, and knows all of the dragon's "names."

- I assume the crewmembers are "soul echoes"/"memory daemons" from just before the accident? If so, where are their bodies? Does your body disintegrate when you transcend to a higher sphere?
This interpretation seems consistent with their behavior of temporarily animating as a dragon walks by. I have no idea why they leave shadows, though, or why they move significantly each time a dragon awakes. Or why they, and no other crewmembers, left echoes.

- What is the alien alchemy? How does it know the formulas for the dragons? How did the graffiti get on the ship?
No real clue here, other than that we recognize the graffiti in the epilogue, and somehow know we won't recognize it again later.

- Who are we in the epilogue? Why does the "simple sealing" on the Nave bound do anything at all? (Much less (re)animate the narrator of the main game)?
The strongest case, I think, is that we're an alternate/past version of ourselves, and that we somehow reincarnate by speaking the simple sealing in the Nave. Why would this work? Assuming we never had much alchemical knowledge to begin with, why would we have another power to enact what sounds like a tremendously potent ritual? Beats me.

- Why can't we read books? We seem to have no problem reading the various letters.
Of course there's an obvious gameplay reason: no need to implement any books.

Gameplay questions:
- Is there more that can be done with the oil? With the alien formulas? The dragon mentions a memory dump available in his lair -- how does one access it?
I haven't found anywhere that Calyx can be used, except in the presence of a dragon, where I get a message about a memory dump that I can't figure out how to access.

- Are there other endings?
Andrew seems to have answered this question definitely in his twitter. There are no substantially-different endings.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:03 am 
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I like your implication that the protagonist might be Ctesc - although I didn't catch the actual relationships between the crew members.

I tend to think that the epilogue is related mostly to the time distortion aspect of the game. You're back in the moment of the accident, and a simple sealing is all you know to do, but because of your in-game actions the ship will survive. Something like that. "It was all a dream"

I think the crew members are related to the dragons somehow. In my play, Powes wasn't in a lair. I went with Baros, which I suspect is the determining factor.

The colorless spark is the memory download - you must've seen it to finish, I think? Or else I didn't quite follow its instructions?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 9:36 am 
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Wow I actually didn't see the colorless spark, and didn't create the ballast in my playthrough. The only difference appears to be the very last message in the game.

With ballast:

Quote:
An apprentice bringing a marcher back to life... it should not be possible. But you will have a notion, a fragment of memory, that help will arrive. Repairs will be made.


Without ballast:

Quote:
You will have no assurance that this can possibly work. An apprentice bringing a marcher back to life... but still.


It makes me think that more might still be possible.


You're right that the "memory daemons" are the sparks, and not the crewmembers. What are the crewmembers, then?

Where did they end up in your game? For me:

Captain: Birdhouse
Anderes: Paper Maze Center
Powes: Barosy
(nobody): Aithery
Ctesc: Library

and the Aithery is where I first activated a dragon.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 11:39 am 
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Ctesc wound up in the Barosy, and Powes wound up in the Pyrics lab.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 11:51 am 
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I didn't even find the intensional ballast recipe, or a colorless spark.

I never wound up using the calyx for anything either.

I thought maybe my reset count would affect the ending (I had 257 resets, mostly because I reset constantly before I did anything).

Also, don't forget to tweet @zarfeblong that you beat the game, if you want on the leaderboard :).

Did anybody find a user for the aluminum impermeability? That seemed like a major dangling thread.

It also really irked me that I could never complete the granite solvent (due to a lack of slate, I think; I didn't find any in the game).

Also, the suits seemed like a dangling thread too; the game implies you could use on if you could find a helmet.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 12:17 pm 
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Review and Commentary

I enjoyed this more (and got more obsessed with it) than any other puzzlebox game I've played. I'm astonished by many aspects of the design of it. Central to my enjoyment was that every single puzzle was derived from a rich, complex, funny and fantastical world model, as if the world model had been designed first and the puzzles arose from that, rather than creating a bizarre world to fit arbitrarily-chosen puzzles. I loved how almost everything had a planetary alignment, an environment, and fitted into theories of music and periodic tables and that these led to puzzles. I loved realising that every substance around me in the ship had implications in alchemical theory. This, along with fair and subtle in-game hinting, lent itself towards glorious sprees of solving (interrupted by lengthy head-wall interactions): because solving the puzzles meant comprehending how the world worked, when I reached a new understanding about the world then major sequences of puzzles would click into place. And every head-wall interface was resolved by understanding something new about the world, rather than obscure object interactions (even if I needed a nudge around 6 times from this thread). Similarly, this rhythm was complemented by the rhythm of the map design: three main stages of map-opening-up (crawlspace, labs, ship) followed by opening smaller sections (dragons, wreck, the final locked doors).

Underpinning all this is a great support structure: the ability to recall facts, formulas and rituals; lists of places and doors to keep track of locked areas; knowing that everything could be looked at through the oculus or planetary lens, and that when I got stuck doing so would generally yield something. And then, of course, this desire to banish as much busywork as possible: the feat of coding that is the “perform [ritual]” command and its associated “go to [place]” and “go to [object]”. An interesting thing about that was how that created an unusual game rhythm: once I understood the reset function, I felt gloriously all-powerful careening about the ship performing complex rituals with a single command, and then in the end-game had to slow everything right down and pay close attention to the detail of every ritual.

But now that I've solved all the mechanical puzzles, I'm left with the bigger puzzle of understanding what it was all about. I'm reminded of puzzlebox books like Charles Palliser's The Quincunx and David Whiteland's The Knot-Shop Man – books where reading the narrative is massively satisfying, but where there are many hidden patterns, associations and implied sub-plots. I now want to go back through the game, noting down all the plot-text and trying to solve that puzzle. Though that does begin to feel like busywork, so maybe others would like to join me in fact-gathering and speculation? But while the mechanical puzzles give you simple you-got-it reward messages, the plot puzzle will never (I hope) be solved with a ringing coin collection sound: we'll have to trust our own theories.

My pet theory is that the PC is a homunculus created by the character in the epilogue, who has primed the ship with information the PC needs to save it. Perhaps the PC is a spark of animation placed in the body or past of an apprentice, or perhaps they're a construct. As the homunculus definition states:

“A homunculus is not a daimon or a servant. It is a seed of animation without volition, a
quickening spark. It cannot act or move on its own; but in combination with other works, it may
become something greater.”

I have some things to back this up with (see below), but I like it most because it feels richly metaphorical: the PC is the player, the epilogue character the puzzle-setter. The game is carefully design to teach a know-nothing player/apprentice everything about the alchemical world; the player becomes and feels greater and greater over the course of the game. This is similar to other games in which a character is a metaphor for a puzzle-setter: GLADoS in Portal, the Narrator in The Stanley Parable. But while in those games player and puzzle-setter are at odds – are constantly taunting and defying each other – in Hadean Lands the two roles are in sympathy, are working together; it's the inverse, positive spin on the theme. Going to other metaphorical levels, this is also a way to talk about reader and author, or a mind and God: the world feels like a puzzle we've been set, and sometimes it feels like it's been set by a perverse Authority we have to struggle against, and sometimes it feels like it's trying to encourage us along and help us to see its beautiful structures. It's interesting to me that there are far, far fewer games with the latter spin.

So, thank you, Zarf.

Speculation

So, my pet theory, that the PC is a homunculus. It was prompted by noting the word “HOMUNCULUS” on the Great Marriagfe text, but then that we never encountered one. Then there's the homunculus definition:

Quote:
“A homunculus is not a daimon or a servant. It is a seed of animation without volition, a quickening spark. It cannot act or move on its own; but in combination with other works, it may become something greater.”

We do know that the character in the epilogue was trying to get an apprentice to fix the marcher – whether they are or aren't an apprentice is unclear:

Quote:
“You will have no assurance that this can possibly work. An apprentice bringing a marcher back to life... but still.”

Against this is that we begin (or end the game) by speaking the simple sealing, which is not how to begin a Great Marriage (which is related to creating a homunculus). For this is that throughout the game the PC is being watched over and commented on by a force that complements its success. Similarly, the PC appears to be moving through a ship which has been deliberately primed for them: not just the placement of papers (and solvable puzzle design), but also the memory sparks, which are (I think) memory daimons:
Quote:
“..to combine an aitheric vibration – the transitory structure – with a spark of animation. This is a well-understood technique to create a self-sustaining aitheric form, e.g. memory daimons. But if the supra-aither or soul-aither exists, suggests Gopinathan, then the same technique may be applied...”


Or is the “spark of animation” mentioned here the homunculus? (“a seed of animation... a quickening spark”) Does “memory daimon” describe the PC?

And then, what is the ship itself? Is it actually the marcher we see in crisis in the epilogue? If so, why is everything not destroyed but just weird? I'm wondering if, somehow, the ship we're playing in is not the marcher itself but some mirroring or duplication of the marcher which could be used as a model (like a game model!) to fix the actual marcher.

Quote:
“...that the form or structure of a thing may be joined to the spirit or essence, thus replicating the thing itself, is the foundation of modern practice. Indeed, historians argue that the ‘marriage’ metaphor of ancient alchemy prefigures this principle. But to apply it recursively, parsing the structure and spirit of the spirit itself, requires the utmost care...”

There's a few leaps in logic there, and I feel like I'm missing some important connections that might make this all clearer. I'd love to hear what you think.

There's also the question of what the accident was. And what's the wreck outside in the Hadean Land? Is it the Cold Crucible, which somehow both crashed and didn't?
Quote:
“Well, you hear stories, right? Things folk see at the moment we rig out. Flashes, no more. The ghost of the Cold Crucible, lost and drowned in a Thalassan sea... Well, aye, I know the Crucible arrived safe home, and never reported any trouble on Titan. Mayhap the ghost is what didn’t happen. Or what will... Still want to gripe you were posted here ‘stead of to the Crucy?”


All the frozen characters were up to no good, documented below How did their various actions result in the various weirdnesses on the ship, or the accident? Are they all memory daimons of some form?

Other questions about the characters: Do their texts change depending on which dragon is activated first? Can anyone check against mine below? Do they move each time a dragon is reactivated, or only after the first dragon? Did anyone record where they are or what's said about them at the beginning, when we first meet them? Have I missed any shadow texts? AND WHO IS N?

So many questions!

Characters in End-Game: Pneuma Activated First

Powes (Barosy)

Quote:
The dragon slides past the Lieutenant’s frozen form. As it does, you hear his voice: “I doubt Anderes will notice until she tries to sell the stuff. How upset her buyers will be then...” He has not moved.

He looks overwhelmed.

He looks tense.


Anderes (Mechanica)

Quote:
The dragon slides past the Lieutenant’s frozen form. As it does, you hear her voice: “How can I get the stuff out without being seen?” But she has not moved.

Anderes looks toward the shelves. They are her responsibility, of course. But you sense that she has begun viewing them as her possessions, which is quite a different thing.

Anderes looks toward the shelves. They are her responsibility, of course. She may have been keeping an hand in towards her own needs; but then, haven’t you been taking a free hand with ship’s supplies yourself, recently?



Ctesc (Aithery)
Quote:
Argh, I'm missing his text. It's something about mutually assured criminal destruction between him and Anderes.

He looks triumphant

He looks pleased to be here.


Captain Hart (Birdcage)

Quote:
The dragon slides past the Captain’s frozen form. As it does, you hear her voice: “How can I meet Jana in the crawlway without being seen?” She has not moved.

You’re not sure what she’s waiting for.

You’re not sure what’s bothering her.


I haven't been to the past positions of the characters to see, but I'd like to. Anyone else?

And from looking into their shadows:

Ctesc
“It appears that Sydney Ctesc has indeed been reaching for advanced alchemical knowledge. But worse: it appears that he is collaborating with Jana Anderes, in Supply. Anderes locates texts in storage, and in return Ctesc aids her in transporting supplies off the Retort for sale on the black market.

“As a result, the Retort is becoming critically short on certain reagents; and who knows what Ctesc is up to with his texts. We will certainly have to bring charges against them both.”

Captain
“I have confirmed that Captain Hart has been conducting a covert affair with Lt Jana Anderes.

“Anderes is apparently involved in some black-market operation, stealing supplies from the Retort and selling them at port. The Captain seems to be entirely unaware of this situation – so we may hold her to account for breach of discipline, but not outright criminal enterprise. This is small comfort, I realize.

“I would normally not bring fraternization to light while rigged for the march. Better to deal with the situation quietly at port; and I clutch the hope that the Captain will come to her senses. However, Anderes’ actions have left the Retort critically short of certain reagents. We may not have the leisure to wait.

–N”

Anderes:
“I must bring to your attention certain discrepancies in the storage records. Significant quantities of reagents have vanished – always those rare and most dearly sold on the black markets at home. The records have been skillfully obscured, but the evidence implicates Lt Anderes.”

Powes

“Powes’ depredations, we find, are concentrated in the Supply department overseen by Lt Jana Anderes. I understand that Anderes has been stealing alchemical supplies, so we must conclude that Powes is targetting Anderes’ black-market efforts.

“I confess I am shocked by the depth of criminal action on this marcher. Is this sort of villainy widespread in the fleet? –But the business at hand. I am now attempting to discover whether Powes was intending to discredit and replace Anderes, or to undermine the marketeers that Anderes was working with, or some more devious scheme...”

I haven't checked shadows in past stages of the game. Has anyone?

And for the record, interesting facts and rituals:

Spoiler: show
>recall alien fluid
The alien technology is controlled by liquid metal contained within a circular arc, activated by invoking or visualizing the appropriate geometric sequence.

>recall dragon reanimation
"It is now clear that the ritual must be performed in the Chancel. I had hoped -- foolishly -- that the Nave bound was sufficient; but my attempts there have provoked no reaction from the Retort at all. I suppose that, in attempting to reanimate the dragons, I am in a sense re-enacting the marcher's original investment. I must therefore maximize the sympathy with the Chancel rituals.

"I am not sure whether I can break through the security strictures, but I will have to try. If I fail, then -- whoever finds this -- you will have to try harder..."

>recall emergency dragon
"If one of a marcher's dragons becomes disorganized, the vessel is in serious danger. As an emergency measure, the faulty dragon may be subsumed into an active one, transferring its functions. The composite will be unstable, but may suffice to rig the marcher to a safe berth.

"Place a fulcrum in the active dragon's lair." (A footnote here: "Any lair will suffice, in fact; the fulcrum merely provides leverage.") "Prepare an orderly environment and use the Marcher's Invocation. Follow with a symmetric sequence to indicate a forward transition (active dragon consuming damaged one). Conclude with the Dracon Invocation. This will summon the active dragon; one can then translate it to the presence of the other. Warning: do not allow the dragon's presence to cross the fulcrum node!"

>recall lecture on aither
"Newton presumed that the aither, as a medium, must be everywhere uniform, because physical and alchemical processes were everywhere the same. We now know the contrary: the 'laws' of natural science are properties of the aither, and currents of alien aither flow between certain stars. Marchers rarely venture through these foreign belts, for the slightest shift of chymic law poisons human life..."

>recall homunculus definition
"A homunculus is not a daimon or a servant. It is a seed of animation without volition, a quickening spark. It cannot act or move on its own; but in combination with other works, it may become something greater."

>recall transition echo
"...in the three centuries since Newton and Malamed's first march, the experience of spheric transition has become commonplace. But our theory of the phenomenon remains maddeningly incomplete. The 'echo' is the most familiar mystery: the traces left behind, howsoever briefly, when any entity enters the Higher Spheres..."

>recall echo vibration
"...Chuang argues that the soul exists in an as-yet-undetected medium, a soul-aither as it might be. The echo is then a transitory vibration of this substance. Lacking volition or identity, the vibration is not self-sustaining. Chuang's computation of the characteristic decay time accords with observation..."

>recall soul mirroring
"...as alchemy's domain now encompasses the human body, the aura, and even the mind, we are left with the question of the soul. Could the human soul be can be created, destroyed, or duplicated by alchemical means? The religious answer is of course an adamant negative. Nonetheless, Nassib's investigation of the echo phenomenon is provocative, if not yet conclusive evidence of soul mirroring..."

>recall vibration technique
"...to combine an aitheric vibration -- the transitory structure -- with a spark of animation. This is a well-understood technique to create a self-sustaining aitheric form, e.g. memory daimons. But if the supra-aither or soul-aither exists, suggests Gopinathan, then the same technique may be applied..."

>recall recursive metaphor
"...that the form or structure of a thing may be joined to the spirit or essence, thus replicating the thing itself, is the foundation of modern practice. Indeed, historians argue that the 'marriage' metaphor of ancient alchemy prefigures this principle. But to apply it recursively, parsing the structure and spirit of the spirit itself, requires the utmost care..."

>recall cold crucible
"Well, you hear stories, right? Things folk see at the moment we rig out. Flashes, no more. The ghost of the Cold Crucible, lost and drowned in a Thalassan sea... Well, aye, I know the Crucible arrived safe home, and never reported any trouble on Titan. Mayhap the ghost is what didn't happen. Or what will... Still want to gripe you were posted here 'stead of to the Crucy?"

>recall periodic
"We are familiar with earth as a pure element in the Greek system. However, minerals need not be considered as imperfect approximations of a Platonic ideal; each has an alchemical structure, and we may discern relations between them. Thus, marble and obsidian are opposites -- white versus black, crystalline versus glassy, pelagic versus volcanic. Soapstone and basalt are another light-dark pair. Other opposing pairs rely on different relations. Chalk and flint are found together, but with different qualities. Granite and slate are formed by opposing geologic processes; so too sandstone and malachite. Porphyry and quartz are an interesting case..."

>recall aura clouds
An aura cloud is an uncontained psychic outbreak, a sucking vortex of vital energies. It's not a ghost, or a demon, but a less scientific age would certainly have viewed it as such. Any living aura that falls into resonance with the cloud will be drained black in moments. You'll have to protect or disguise your psychic signature, somehow, to pass the medical wing door.

>recall musical theory
"Music is the most complex of ritual elements; one might well call it 'obfuscated.' We begin with the nursery-school lessons: the pitch A is associated with iron, the color red, the liver; B with bronze, orange, the stomach; C with brass... yes, you can all chant along. But this is simplified to uselessness. What of non-classical metals? We now associate C-sharp with rutilum, F-sharp with aluminum, G-sharp with nickel. Researchers have invented entirely new scales to deal with the spectrum of aither-metals. Then the Eastern Empire uses the well-tempered scale; thus while F-sharp is the mode of extension, G-flat is the mode of ostension, G-natural is intension, G-sharp is paratension, and H -- yes, there's an H -- is the mode of recension..."

>recall great marriage
"THE GREAT MARRIAGE must be performed at the Heart of the House, in an Orderly Environment." (...scribbled with an arrow: "?NAVE!") "...Employ the Marcher's Invocation to seal an empty Bound. Add a Signifier of the Marcher's Location to the Gestalt; waft a Resinous Note. Now add the Four Elements to the Bound, and invoke the Dragon."

Great Marriage? This isn't modern alchemical science; it's a fairy tale. And the only indication of the goal is "THE HOMUNCULUS."

>x hyacinth
You focus on the hyacinth spark through the oculus. A new memory comes into focus. "...and when she looked into their shadows..." That's all you overheard.

>x colorless
You focus on the colorless spark through the oculus. A new memory comes into focus. "The weather symbolism in the paper garden has slipped; air quality is impaired. Marcher transit in this state is risky. Recommendation: inscribe an intensional ballast and place it below the garden."

And then: "An intensional ballast may serve to support a failing alchemical construct, though only in the direst emergency, for the results are uncertain and of limited duration. The ritual is simply a refinement of the universal tarnish cleansing. Add zafranum after the lubanja spirit, and conclude with the Greater Phlogistical Saturation instead of the Lesser. The brass token will then be able to infuse phlogiston, at need, directly into the nearest construct."

You consider these memories.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 2:19 pm 
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I activated Aistheta first and yes, I had slightly different shadow text. I will post it later; unfortunately, I also didn't think to take any notes in the midgame (and confess I'm not too enthusiastic about replaying the whole thing just to extract the text).

Does anybody remember if the crewmembers appear in the dragon rooms all at once, or one at a time? Is it possible that each time we reawaken in the Nave, we switch to guiding a different surviving crewmember on the "real" Marcher? (With the first Marriage really being a kind of Divorce, splitting our agency into four parts, one per crewmember/element/dragon...)


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:06 pm 
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I seem to have taken the same path as evouga (reawakening Aistheta first), and I'm curious how Harry managed to activate Pneuma first. As far as I can tell, the only way into Pneuma's lair is to awaken Aistheta (repairing the paper maze) or to awaken Baros (repairing the Paper Maze - Barosy crawlspace). I must have missed something? I'm pretty sure I could get to any of the others first now that I know the jade bead is replaceable in the aura imitation ritual (although I didn't notice that hinted anywhere; just intuited it from a list of rituals someone posted in the hint thread).

It looks like the relationships between the four crewmembers depend on which dragon is awakened first. I had the same results as evouga. During the endgame, the crew members move into the lairs of each damaged dragon subsumed by the active one. Not sure if they always move in the same order, or if each has a preferred destination. For me, Anderes moved to the Paper Maze (from Mechanica), Ctesc to the Barosy (from the Deck Suite), and the Captain to the Birdhouse (from outside Pyrics), in that order because that's the order I happened to grab the rest of the dragons. Powes stayed in the Pyrics lab after the first dragon awakening (presumably he was meant to proceed to the Aithery under some conditions that I didn't produce? Have Aistheta try to subsume itself, maybe?)

I didn't see the colorless spark or create the ballast either, and I used "rooms" liberally to find places I hadn't searched with the oculus. How is this done?

Edit: Also, the cabinet outside the Medical Wing? WTF??? Did anyone manage to open this, or is it just there to mock us?


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 4:57 pm 
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Just use the oculus again in the room with the dragon to see the colorless spark.

You can open the medical cabinet using the elemental air bubble. I forget what it contains, though from your description it sounds like it's the maze-solving pendulum ritual that would have let you access Pneuma.


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PostPosted: Mon Nov 03, 2014 5:04 pm 
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You can replace the symmetric with the antisymmetric formula in the dragon-summoning ritual, and the dragon will still come. Does this have any effect during the midgame?


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