27 November 2009

Pirate Victory

I'm not sure what brought this song to mind today, but I decided to track it down. It's from The Pirate Movie, which is basically an '80s rock opera version of The Pirates of Penzance. Some of the songs coincide, but some are new, and some are the old ones turned into rock opera. It was one of my favorite movies when I was little. This song isn't actually from the movie proper; it's before Mabel falls into the ocean and starts dreaming up the rest of the movie. Still, it's a fun one. I give you, Victory!

Song only

Jack Sparrow montage + Song (parts well done, other parts...meh...)

And finally, horriby misspelled lyrics!

Unfortunately, the only versions with footage from the actual Pirate Movie wouldn't load for me, or I wouldn't have bothered linking to the PotC one.

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26 November 2009

Further Piecrust Adventures: Cookie edition

It's traditional in my family to make three pumpkin pies, so technically I only need three crusts, but I just double the two-crust recipe and have enough for four. The rest get rolled out into pie-crust-cookies. You roll them out, just like for a pie, then cut them into roughly cookie size pieces, and sprinkle with a mix of cinnamon and sugar before baking. They're quite tasty, and usually I make them at the same time as the pies, but it was late last night so I put the rest of the dough in the fridge to use this morning.

Well, the dough I make handles much better warm, so I was trying to cut the one large ball into several smaller pieces so that they would warm up faster. There was a lot of resistance to the knife, so, to get more leverage, I held the dough in my left hand with the knife in my right and started trying to cut through it. You can probably see where this is going... When the knife was almost halfway through, the whole thing suddenly gave way. The knife whooshed straight through the dough and into the middle finger of my left hand. It dug out a small chunk of flesh, maybe 0.25x0.5 cm at the extremes. Despite this, it didn't hurt much at first. It started to hurt when I started to wash it off. Anyway, it's quite interesting to roll out pie-crust dough while trying to keep pressure on a finger to stop the bleeding. I had to throw out one cookie, as I bled on it. I would have eaten it, but I figured my mom would have a fit about it.

The finger did eventually stop bleeding. It's still a bit sore, unsurprisingly.

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Piecrust Adventures

A few interesting conundrums whilst making the pumpkin pies last night.

(1) I had only one pumpkin from my garden. It was fairly small, and, when I cut into it, I discovered one part of it was rotten. I had my mom get some canned pumpkin as backup. I got 2 cups from the good parts of the real pumpkin, and had to fill in the rest with the canned pumpkin. Annoying, but workable.

(2) I could not find my pie-crust-bag. It was not on the top shelf of the closet where it's supposed to be, nor in any of the other places I thought I might have decided to put it. If it doesn't turn up, I'm going to assume it got thrown away accidentally and order a new one. The problem is that gluten-free crust is extremely delicate. You need the plastic to hold it together long enough to get it into the pan, and even then there are almost always cracks and holes to patch. So I improvised. I had some jumbo-size ziplock bags. I rolled the first crust inside the bag and then cut two of the edges open so I could extract it, then rolled the other crusts with the bag slit open. It worked better than I expected. I think the crust didn't stick to the ziplock as badly as it generally did to the pie-crust bag. However, the pie-crust-bag is reusable many times over, whereas the ziplock would need to be replaced each time, and the jumbo ziplocks are rather pricey.

(3) I ran out of sweet rice flour on the first crust. It's what Bette Hagman recommends be used for sprinkling on the inside of the bag to help keep it from sticking. I sighed, thought a moment, and used corn meal instead. Actually, I think it worked better than the sweet rice flour. I think the idea with sweet rice flour is that it's supposed to stick together better than other GF flours, so it should help the crust stick together. The problem is that rice flour is dry, and so the more of it you use for rolling, the more you need to add more liquid to the dough. The corn meal seemed to be better at keeping the dough from sticking, and it didn't dry out the dough as much. We shall find out today whether it causes any general weirdness in the eating. If not, I may just switch over to cornmeal for piecrust dusting.

And now, I have cornbread, coffeecake, roasted pumpkin seeds, and piecrust cookies to make.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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25 November 2009

Mad Munchkins

No actual D&D this week, as our thief is out of town and we kinda need him to finish opening the chest, so we got together and played other games instead. Two of them I had never played before. The other, Othello, was a way to pass the time until the rest of the players arrived. Despite not having played against anything other than a computer for a very long time, I managed to win at Othello. It was a near thing, as I was nearly boxed in, and decided now might be the time to give up a corner in order to salvage something from the situation ... and wound up taking all the corners instead, as I was able to take the opposite penultimate corner slot and stop Fibonacci from getting the corner I had intended to give up.

Anyway, on to the games I hadn't played before. First, the Mad Magazine Game*, which is a Monopoly spoof where the object is to lose all your money. The spaces on the board have instructions like "everyone move one chair to your (left|right)", "switch money with a player", "roll the dice three times and go that many spaces backwards around the board", etc. It's a hoot. John/Allonar (since there's another John who comments here, I figure I ought to specify) wound up winning, due to fortuitous money shifting and landing on a space where he got to lose more money than he currently had.

Then John/Allonar also brought Munchkin**, and we played that. I'd never played it before, though I'd read some descriptions. It's basically a D&D parody. You start out as a classless human. If you draw a class or race card, you can choose to become that, at least until you get cursed out of it. Every time you defeat a monster, you go up a level. If you can't defeat the monster, you can get help from a fellow player ... but watch out, as they will only do so if it benefits them. The first person to reach Level 10 wins. John/Allonar won the first game, despite us valiantly trying to sabotage his last fight with as many curses as we could muster (cooperating to stop someone else from winning seems to be a given), and I squeaked in as winner on the second game. Amusingly, Andrew agreed to help with what seemed like it should be my last fight, expecting to sabotage me at the last minute with a "Drop 2 levels" curse card...except I had the wishing ring and made the curse go away. Something else had happened so I didn't win on that fight, but on my next turn, I was up against a Level 1 something-or-other, and everyone had used up nearly all their curse cards trying to sink other last efforts. Someone had a +3 to play on the monster, making it Level 4, and Abe had a "mate" card, so that put it to Level 8 total ... and I was sitting comfortably at 15 (17 -2 from another curse), including all the item modifiers I had.

Thus a fun time was had by all, but I suspect Allonar and I will be ganged up on the next time we have a non-D&D gaming night. ^!^

*The Mad game is out of print, but there are "collectible" versions for sale for $84 on up at the Amazon link if you really want a copy.

**There are over a dozen varieties of this at Amazon, but, afaik, we were playing the original card game version.

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21 November 2009

Random Holiday Rambling

(1) Pouncer had a cold for a few days this week. I can't remember ever seeing a cat with a cold before; it took me a day or so to realize that's what was going on. First I noticed he was drooling a bit, and seemed to be leaving his mouth open more than usual. He also wasn't his usual "First!" self. I noticed that he seemed to have a bit of a runny nose and he was wheezing a bit, and then made the connection to his keeping his mouth open: he was breathing through his mouth because his nose was stuffed up. It lasted 2-3 days, and I just kept an eye on him and made sure it wasn't getting worse. It may have just been good timing, but it started to go away shortly after I shared some roasted chicken with him and the other cats. Probably coincidence, though it would be nice to think I cured him.

(2) I was beginning to think I wouldn't get any turkey this Thanksgiving, but my mom found a free-range Norbest turkey, which specifically said "gluten free," and their web-site indicates that all of their whole, uncooked turkeys are also soy-free. Gluten-free we had covered, but soy free is tougher, since every turkey I looked at had unidentified "natural flavors" in it. Technically "natural flavors" can include stuff made from wheat, but I never had a gluten-reaction to anything labeled that way. I have had several soy reactions. As far as I'm concerned "natural flavors" is equivalent to a skull and crossbones symbol.

(3) Apparently three weeks away from push hands was good for me, as Don and Mark both commented on how much more relaxed I have been the past two Saturdays. It seems backwards until you've tried it/experienced it/felt it, but being relaxed makes your attacks and defenses much more effective. Hmmm... possibly I should experiment with my dice and see if relaxed tosses produce higher rolls than tense tosses. Somehow I suspect that won't be the case, but it doesn't hurt to try. ^!^

(4) We still haven't finished with the chest in D&D, and we won't finish this week since our thief will be out of town. So even though I may start writing a narrative version of it, there won't be much point in posting it until we actually finish with the chest and I can include a conclusion.

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19 November 2009

Vampiric Pizza Delivery, Seaside Edition

Very odd dream snippet from last night:

Fibonacci had ordered pizza, and was trying to offer me some. I asked if it was gluten-free, and it wasn't, so I told him he'd have to eat the whole thing himself. Despite the pizza already being there, there was a knock at the door, and it was a group of people there to deliver the pizza (counterwise pizza delivery, maybe?). There were four of them, and they started in on an odd sort of street theatre performance. Eventually I realized they were vampires, because they could move in ways that no human could. Also, there was some sort of "vampire look" in their eyes. They weren't threatening us; just dancing/performing for their tip, I think.


There are footsteps in the sand at the bottom of a shallow sea, and apparently human bones litter the floor, following the footsteps. A master vampire in black with a cape tenderly picks up the skull and sends some sort of magic into it. The bones partially reassemble, and the flesh/clothing reforms on those bones, revealing the face of a woman. The magic is not enough to bring her back; the light goes out of her eyes and the vampire screams his frustration into the sea.

[End Dream]

It was a fairly odd and eclectic mix of elements. I was not reading about vampires any time yesterday, though I did make some GF English muffin pizzas on Tuesday. *shrugs*

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15 November 2009

A Thought on Conspiracy Theories

But the point is clear. The same people that peddle this crap are the ones who also assure us that no government program would work because it's so incompetent. Maybe they should just hire one of the many conspiracy groups who seem to be able to pull off extremely subtle and complex schemes without any trouble -- and even without any of us knowing about it (except for all the people who seem to be in on the secret and are blabbing it all over the internet).

~Revere at Effect Measure

My astrophysics professor once commented that the problem with supposed government cover-up of aliens was, well, that the same government was unable to cover up much more mundane scandals. The source article links to a longer article making much the same point. Still, there may be a related lesson to consider: if people put as much energy into finding solutions to real problems as they do into making up imaginary explanations for past failures, we might have a better functioning world, with fewer such failures to encourage ridiculous explanation. Or we might not, but it's an interesting idea all the same.

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14 November 2009

Driving Lessons

I'd missed Saturday taiji three weeks in a row, twice due to my bout of flu (though the first time I didn't realize that's what it was) and once because Don had to have his knee cut open again. So, despite the inch and a half of snow and my lack of snow tires, I drove up there today.

I think these were the worst roads I'd ever driven on without snow tires. I hadn't really appreciated how much of a difference they make. I was cut down to 35 mph or so in some places, and never really made it above 55 mph. I tried once, and immediately slowed down again. It was an interesting drive. Also strangely peaceful and relaxing, except when idiots zoomed around me. I like the challenge of driving on slick roads. Why? I have no idea.

Still, I do plan on getting my snow tires put on this week if at all possible. Just because I like the challenge doesn't mean I don't want to be careful about it. ^!^ And the roads coming back were much better. Not quite bone dry, but pretty close.

As for Don's knee, apparently there was another, smaller tear in a tendon. The doctor wasn't sure how long it had been there, but I can only assume that it started to bother him during the time I was unable to come. His best guess was that it happened when his leg was dropped shortly after the first operation, as there had been a great deal of pain then. He's back in the wheelchair, but more cheerful than I expected ... that or he's good at putting on a cheerful front (based on prior experience, I expect it's the latter). It was more or less a seminar class, with Don critiquing here and there.

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13 November 2009

Among the Shaman

I seem to have started a trend. With John's permission, I'm posting his IC explanation of his character's multiclassing.

Among the Shaman

Allonar stumbled forward in a cold sweat. The dream had come again. While he respected, feared, and served the Raven Queen, he was still living, and his dreamy jaunts into the world of the goddess of Death left him shivering; what with he was not quite certain. The dreams had become more constant, more vivid every time he channeled the divine power of the Raven Queen.

The dreams themselves weren't what disturbed him most. The existence of death was a natural process, one he had come to accept as merely another step in the life of a Deva. It was what was in the land of the dead. Not all of the things that are dead are good, and far fewer of them are content with their circumstances. He could feel himself slipping. Every hour as he had moved through the labrynth, and even now as climbed the staircase to meet the chaotic wizard, memories flooded to his mind of his life before. Like a series of torches glimmering in the distance, and as seemingly eternal as the steps he now climbed, spiralling upward, so were the lives he had lived, tracing their way dimly back to his time as an eternal being. But they were just that: dim. The thousands of years of good and kindly lives were darkened by the bright shine of memories that were his most recent life. The life purged from the brink of corruption.

He had been invested in the dead then, too. His desire for power had seduced his heart into making pacts with things far removed from the good he was to be seeking. The flame of love and kindness he had known and sought for generations had grown colder and colder still, until only a faint glimmer of truth kept him from the ultimate fall his kind had known. Like a drug, the control of the dead had made him become something far closer to the evil he had fought so hard remove than ever before: a rakshaza. Had it not been for the foresight of a fellow Deva -who saw what he was about to become and pierced his darkened heart to release the glimmer of light it still contained- his rebirth would have been an event of sorrow and pain for the world, rather than the joy and happiness he had brought once again.

But the pull was growing stronger. The door into his mind that was opened by his divine service to the Queen had become a battering ram into his mind, a hole in which evil could slip in and exercise itself in thoughts of bloodshed: not only of the evil, but of the wild, the wierd...perhaps even... the innocent.

He could not allow these thoughts to continue. His hunger for dark powers grew out of his previous life. It was like withdrawals of a drug, he yearned to feel it again, to know the service of good and evil alike, enslaved to do his bidding. He yearned for an earlier life, searched the line of torches and knew there was a hero against darkness in his distant past. But he could not be heard, not for the clammering of his dark life, for the clash of memories that cascaded and called him to be more than a servant of good.

But there must be another way. Why was it that only evil seeped in from the land of the dead. Surely the good rested with the Queen as well. Perhaps it was that the good rested peacefully, uninterested in the lives of the living. But perhaps they could be called. Invited to partake in the sufferings of his troubled mind. Brought back to reteach a Deva in need of truth, of wisdom, of perfection and inspiration.
He would be a servant! NO! A friend. He himself would serve the memory and teachings of the hero who had lived many generations ago. He who was the same being, the same entity that was Allonar himself, but from a purer time, and brighter time.

Allonar called. He had opened the door in his mind, this time travelling willingly into the world that belonged to the Raven Queen. He spoke, first timidly, then powerfully, calling forth the Spirit that both was him, and was not him at the same time. He began to lose hope. To think that perhaps it was not to be possible. Perhaps he should just give in. Lose the fight, allow a stronger being to emerge, to fill the hole he had left in his mind. These thoughts overwhelmed him.

But then a slight glow dispelled the evil that had crept upon him. There before him stood the image of a Deva. Fair of skin, and fairer still of demeanor. But there was power there as well. A heart and mind of such purity, it shamed him to think he had ever considered the chaotic path. Together they returned to his mind. He had hope. He had brought it with him back to the land of the living.

Allonar realized what he had become. They called them Spirit Talkers. Creatures so in-tune with the dead that they are able to physically manifest their presence, and who were able to seek the guidance of beings from the millenias past. Though weak in his abilities still, he was very clearly one of them. He was among the Shaman.

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We're Here to Rescue You

(but who's going to rescue us...?)

Good session last night. Dovra even managed to fail one death-saving throw, but thankfully she had one more healing potion on her that could be poured down her throat.

I closed this as we started to work on opening a chest, because we're not even halfway finished with it, and it seemed like a reasonable place to close off this narrative. The chest started out with 6 dials, but that's been whittled down to 4, largely because it was taking longer than the DM anticipated.

Dovra woke with a start, surprised to realize she'd drifted off again while watching over Allonar. She still had the Orb of Imposition, so the puzzle hadn't been a dream, at least. She found herself reaching compulsively for the Star of Corellon in her pouch. Maybe she needed to get a piece of leather and keep it around her neck. It was strange to think that a deity actually cared about her, or, well, that anyone actually cared about her. Other than some temporary alliances, she'd been on her own for as long as she could remember. She wasn't quite sure what she was doing with this group of heroes. She'd followed them into the cave more out of curiosity than anything else, and now, good or ill, she didn't have any way back. Her hand crept into her pack for the other object that she cared about, but she wasn't ready to pull it out yet. Maybe not ever. She wondered if it was sacred to Corellon as well, if that was why he'd taken an interest in her.

She noticed someone else up and moving around. It was Shenron, and he had removed the cupboard that was blocking the tunnel below the lab. Dovra wondered what had come up out of the tunnel, and what it had done to Phoenix Darksoul, poor Blue Cheese. When he wasn't getting carried away with his experiments, he'd been likable enough. Of course, he'd been getting worse and worse, and then there was that business with the cats... At least making the dwarf photosynthesize might have been useful. Potentially. Maybe. Okay, it was completely silly and pointless, but it had at least been interesting, unlike all the hybrid nonsense. An odd sort of munching emanated up from the tunnel and brought her back to the present. She wondered what hybrids Phoenix had been working on down there. Shenron, at least, seemed determined to find out. Some of the others were starting to wake up as well. Oh, there Heian was. She must have been asleep by the time he made it back into the lab.

"Heian! Shenron didn't eat you!" Dovra called out.

"What?" Heian said, giving her a startled look.

"Well, you know, you were arguing, then Shenron came back, and you didn't, so I thought..." Heian looked at her like she'd gone insane. Maybe Not Evil people didn't generally eat one another. She filed that bit of information away.

"Yeah, er, call of nature and all that." Heian seemed to consider this sufficient explanation and turned back toward the tunnel.

Dovra considered what he'd said. She didn't think he meant that he'd been called into beast form; as far as she knew, he was just an elf. Perhaps he'd needed to get outside the tower and back into the more natural cave, though it seemed strange that he would risk running into the blue dragon for that. It must have been a very strong call indeed. Perhaps this was what he and Shenron had been arguing about. What would Heian do when they were further up inside the tower, with no way back down to the cave? Possibly they would need to start tying him up while he slept ... but that was a concern for later.

Right now, everyone was converging on the trapdoor that led to the tunnel. Dovra wondered who had brought the ladder back in, as she had simply left it by the balcony. Well, she supposed it was time to find out what her former cohort had wrought down there. Or rotted, perhaps. There was a rather unpleasant smell. She was one of the last down the ladder, which was perfectly all right with her. It put her out of the direct line of fire. It also meant that she couldn't see very well, but there seemed to be cells on either side of the hallway as far as she could see. Heian took point and began sneaking down the hall. When he got to the first set of cells, he stopped and motioned for everyone else to stay back. Shenron and Horgta ignored his warning, and the elf seemed exasperated as they came up beside him. Allonar came up behind them and hid his sunstick under his cloak. Dovra crept up as well, just to where she could peek into the cells. The one on the right was empty, but the one on the left had an odd, floating creature that seemed to be all eyes, mouths, and tentacles. The mouths gibbered constantly, though it was mostly unintelligible. Then she heard it say, "Why is a raven like a writing desk?", before dropping back into gibberish. It didn't seem to have noticed them yet.

Dovra's ears pricked up as she recognized Deep Speech coming from two cells down on the left. It had been a long time since she'd been around anyone else that spoke it. She was a bit rusty, but she thought it said, "What is it? What is coming? Is it food? We hope it's food. We're very hungry." Dovra spoke as quietly as she could, "Uh, whatever's in the third cell down is hungry and thinks we might be food." Heian sneaked closer to that cell, and almost made it past, but one foot suddenly caught on a bit of rubble. Now that Dovra thought to look, she could see that there was a lot of rubble at that end of the corridor. Had something broken out of one of the cells down there? It was hard to see from here, and Heian didn't seem happy about whatever was in the cell closest to him.

Dovra let the others move up before she did. There were some oddly dark shadows in the cell next to the gibbering thing. Suspiciously dark, in fact, but nothing was moving there. There were also some glowing red runes on the wall between the sets of cells. She examined one, and realized that pushing it would open the cell next to it. There were similar runes next to all the cells. When she could see into the third cell, there was another floating thing. Only one mouth this time, but with lots and lots of eyestalks, most of them pointed at Heian right now. Dovra decided she might as well try talking to it since it knew they were there. "Uh, hello? What happened that put you in this place?" At least, she hoped that was what she said. Several of the eyestalks rotated to point at her.

"There was this little runt of a wizard," it said.

Hmmm, so this wasn't one of Phoenix's constructions. It didn't really fit his style, but neither did keeping this thing in a cage. "Ummm... is there any way we can, er, help you?"

The thing seemed to grin at her. "Yesss... you can let usss out ssso we can eat you and your frrriends."

"Er, no. I can't do that."

"Yesss you can. Jussst pushh the niiice red runessss."

Dovra sighed. Talking to it wasn't going to help. The creatures would probably just get worse as they went further down the corridor. They might as well turn back—

"Hello? Is—is somebody out there?" A female voice came out of the fifth cell on the right. It sounded very faint, and very scared. Before Dovra could decide what to do about it, a giant spider emerged from the shadows in the cell between the two floating eye things and spit acid at her and Allonar. It burned, and seemed to keep burning. Dovra ran towards the female voice, more to get away from the spider than for any other reason, and made it past the second thing with all the eyes just before it attacked Horgta. The gibbering thing hadn't seemed to like light, so maybe casting light on this thing would make it go hide. She tried it. It responded by attacking her, and the world went black.

Sometime later, a surge of healing rushed through her, and she looked up at Shenron's scaly face. A moment later the acid burned through her again and she lost consciousness again. She woke up to the same awful taste as with the crossbows. Surely Phoenix could have made his potions taste, if not pleasant, at least not nightmarish. Then again, she remembered his adventures in cooking, and one memorable night when he'd had to coax the dinner out from behind a bookshelf after it was cooked. She hadn't eaten much that night. For now, though, they seemed to have gotten the girl out of her cell, and had her most of the way down the hall. This seemed like a good time to make an Expeditious Retreat. The world blurred around her as she shifted past the cells at double speed. When she stopped, she noticed Horgta was carrying a green cloak. Maybe it belonged to the girl. Only, the girl had Heian's cloak wrapped around her. No, wait. Dovra had seen the green cloak before. The day she'd met up with this odd band of heroes, the one the trolls had grabbed had been wearing that cloak. What had his name been? Feta? No, Theta. John Theta. He was what had brought the heroes here.

She waited for the rest of the group to make it back to the ladder. The gibbering thing gibbered at them, and seemed to daze several of her companions, but they were headed out anyway. As they wrapped the girl to carry her up the ladder, Dovra noticed that her skin seemed to be covered in some sort of slime, like a frog's. She sighed. Phoenix again. What had happened to the fun projects that didn't really hurt anyone? Dovra very much doubted the girl had wanted to become part frog. They'd gotten the dwarf's permission before trying to make him photosynthesize, though he might not have really understood what he was in for. Maybe Dovra just hadn't been any good at being evil. She didn't seem to be much better at being Not Evil, however, as she'd been completely useless down in that tunnel. Everyone had made it out in one piece, but no thanks to her. She'd been a complete and utter liability.

They rested for a while after returning to the relative safety of the lab. The girl didn't say much, and Dovra couldn't think of anything useful to say to her. What could she say? "Sorry for helping Phoenix work out how to give mammals amphibious skin?" "Look, it made sense to have dogs that could work in a marine environment, sorry he decided to try it on you?" No, better not to say anything. The others seemed to be uncomfortable around her as well; at least, no one went over to try and talk to her. Dovra wondered why the girl couldn't move on her own. There was nothing obviously wrong with her legs, and the amphibious skin procedure shouldn't have affected her legs. What else had Phoenix done to her? Chances were that the girl didn't even know.

Just as Dovra was trying to work up the nerve to talk to her, Allonar's voice echoed out from inside a cabinet. It was the same cabinet Dovra had slept in before they'd gone down into the tunnel. "Ah-ha! I thought there was something peculiar about that panel." Dovra went over to see what he'd found. Behind a panel in the cabinet there was a chest with six four dials on the front of it. "I remember that chest," Dovra said. "Blue Cheese used to put his lemonade on it in the summer to keep it cold." There was some sort of cold spell on it, but that was all she really knew about it. She'd never seen Phoenix open it.

"There also appears to be some equipment behind the chest," Allonar said. Horgta and Shenron went to go look at it.

"These belong to our friend, John Theta," Shenron said. The three who had known him well looked somber, but at least the gear was all intact. Dovra wondered what Phoenix had really wanted with Theta, and how human he would be when, if, they found him.

For now, though, they needed to focus on opening the chest. It wasn't going to be easy. Heian moved towards the chest as if in a trance. "The chest is going to fight you," Dovra told him after checking it out as thoroughly as she could. "Even if you find the right number, the chest can change the combination while you're working on it. I think I may be able to lock the dials in place, but the chest will probably fight us on that, too." Heian groaned, but still seemed happier than Dovra could ever remember seeing him. "Oh, I think it may also be able to summon monsters." That dampened his spirits a bit more, but Horgta, Shenron and Allonar formed a protective ring behind Dovra and Heian as they settled in to work on the chest.

Shenron interrupted for a moment and commanded the chest to open in the name of Bahamut. Nothing happened. For good measure, Dovra commanded it to open in the name of Corellon, with similar effect. Good. No gods were going to interfere. Comforting as her star might be, Dovra was used to being on her own.

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10 November 2009

Strange Students

As part of the correspondence stats course I helped develop over the summer, I get various things to grade. I had one student e-mail me with a long harangue about what she didn't like about the course, and didn't even realize that she'd attached her first nonautomated assignment to the thing. Then she sent the long harangue again the next day. And the next. I stared at it, and decided to ignore it, still not noticing that she'd attached an assignment to this nearly incoherent rant. So...that assignment was late being graded, and my partner in crime, who did most of the actual work developing the course, is going to take over grading the rest of her work. I'm both relieved and annoyed by this development, but, given that I just cringe when I see her name on an e-mail heading, it's probably for the best.

FYI: the assignment was also nearly incoherent, but not incoherent enough that she didn't pass. You could tell that she thought big words were impressive but had no idea how to actually use them. If this were an English class, that would have had more of an impact on her grade. As it was, I docked a point here and there for the more egregious absurdities, and otherwise just hunted for the relevant information.

I have now reached the point of the semester where I'm ready for it to be over. It usually happens late October, but I was a bit too busy being ill to notice it then. One symptom of this is that I'm quite happy to see Christmas displays popping up like weeds in stores.

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06 November 2009


tendons break, joints creak
scalpel carves continually
caustic uncontrol

*sigh* Don had to have his knee operated on again. It had been coming along well, though he had complained of a sort of indent where he wondered if a tendon had come loose again. So no taiji tomorrow, and no idea about next week. He still sounded groggy on the phone, but that's rather understandable.

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02 November 2009

Gargoyles, Walking Crossbows, and a Rat (Oh, my)

When Dovra hit level 4, I had her take a Divine Channeler multiclass feat. This gives her a healing spell, but requires IC explanation. I was a bit disappointed that the full group wasn't there, but there was one IC witness, and one OOC witness. I'm expanding it a bit from what happened in game, but not by too much.

For a change, I'm trying to write it out in narrative form, and it wound up rather long, so it's below the fold. It is very nearly unedited, so think of it as a "stream of consciousness first draft." A few OOC notes: Abe/Shenron was late, and Heian/Philip didn't make it at all.

After being pulled into the death snail's repulsively attractive aura, Dovra felt sickened, disgusted, and even angry. She kept wiping at her arms, trying to remove the feel of contamination from them. She followed the group as they went into what was left of poor Blue Cheese's lab, and managed to confine herself to muttered grumblings as they searched it. She knelt in the wreckage for a while as one by one her newfound allies departed. Only Horgta remained, and she could take it no longer. "That was the most disgusting thing I've ever felt. That, that thing had no purpose but death. Do you realize that I've killed more hings since becoming Not Evil than I ever did when I was actually evil? Do you? Look at all this." She gestured to the mess of the lab, and started picking up items at random, not really looking at them. "See this? It's to make it easier to kill something. And this?! And this!?! All for killing! The only thing in this place not designed for killing are those blasted healing potions over there!"

She continued ransacking the already ransacked lab, while Horgta the half-orc just stared at her. The more damage she did, the more agitated she became. "This, and this, and—" Suddenly the object she'd grabbed began glowing, and she stopped and stared up at it. It was a star, silver and with eight points. She recognized it as Corellon's symbol, and the light spread down from the star and through her body. She could no longer see the lab, so bright was the light surrounding her. She heard a voice whispering faintly to her. It said, "Heal... Heal...," and she felt a new power grow within her, a power of mercy that would allow her to do more than just kill in the midst of battle, but would also allow her to provide aid and comfort.

The glow faded, but the calm sense of peace remained. Dovra's hand closed on the star and she tucked it carefully into her belt pouch. She noticed Horgta still staring at her. "Anyway, shall we keep searching the lab, see if there's anything else useful here?" Horgta gave her a funny half-smile and slowly backed away from her, keeping a close eye on her as if he thought she might be dangerous. Dovra was puzzled by this, but before she could think to ask, she heard a muffled cry for help. "Did you hear that? It sounds like someone's in trouble. Where's the rest of the group?"

Horgta stared at her for a moment before deciding he believed her. He rushed out of the lab. With the door open, Dovra could see Shenron and Heian off in one corner, arguing. Where was Allonar? He'd tried one of the wizard's atheletics potions and gone bounding up on one of the balconies. The stairs had burned when the fire snail got too close, but hadn't there been a ladder in the lab? Yes. She grabbed it and got to the wall just as Horgta pulled himself up the hard way.

"You could have waited for the ladder," Dovra said, trying to be helpful.

Horgta stared down at her from his perch on the wall. "You mean you're not crazy? I thought you were crazy with all the yelling and glowing."

Dovra gave him a confused look but decided to shrug it off. She climbed up the ladder and they both turned to the right, to the narrow corridor that led off the balcony. There was a small room at the other end. Dovra caught a whiff of a very expensive poison gas before she saw Allonar standing dazedly next to a large key on the floor; he was surrounded by what appeared to be living stone gargoyles. Around the room there were also things that looked like walking crossbows. He croaked out a warning about the gas before becoming stunned. The gargoyle creatures took the key and placed it on a square further back where all eight of the could surround it. The crossbow-creatures seemed to lose interest once the key was guarded, but there was still the gas in the room.

Rope. Both Dovra and Horgta had rope. They tossed one end towards Allonar and Dovra summoned her mage hand to tie it around him well enough that they could drag him back. He came to after a few minutes. For once, it was a relief to see his oddly glowing eyes. Allonar explained that he'd thought he could just jump in, grab the key, and jump back out—he suspected the athletics potion might have affected his judgment in this matter—but the gargoyles had come to life the instant he touched the key, and then the crossbow-creatures had begun emitting the poisonous gas. "Even worse, when you're dazed, those gargoyle creatures are no longer visible to you. But I think we need to acquire that key. It may open the door on the other balcony."

Dovra was dubious, and pointed out that no one had slept since dealing with the dragons. The creatures weren't doing anything now that they had the key again, and Blue Cheese's lab was probably safe enough. They needed a long rest. "No, no. We need to get that key first." Dovra muttered to herself, but the gas had cleared enough that she could get close enough to the key for the mage hand to tie a rope on it. She held her breath as it began tying knots, but the gargoyles didn't react. The other end of the rope was around her waist, so as soon as the key was tied securely, she ran for all she was worth, dragging the key behind her, and drawing the rope in as she ran. Allonar untied the key and ran off with it while the gargoyles and crossbows started following. He and Horgta made it out of the narrow hallway relatively intact, but Dovra was hit multiple times by the crossbows and fell unconscious.

She felt something being poured down her throat. It tasted horrible, but she could feel her strength returning. She could sit up. Someone, presumably Horgta since he was next to her, had pulled her out of the way. The creatures didn't seem interested in them so long as they stayed out of the way. They only cared about the key. Across the way, they could see Allonar on the other balcony. From the looks of things, he must have jumped the gap. He was almost to the door, but he suddenly stopped. "There's no keyhole!" He turned abruptly and ran the other way, jumping down from that balcony to the main floor before disappearing into the wizard's lab.

Dovra didn't remember anything with a keyhole in there, either, but she was a bit too distracted to worry about it just now. The walking crossbows were shuffling past her and toward where the stairs used to be. Where were the gargoyles? She saw Horgta fighting something that she couldn't see down on the main floor. Wonderful. Well, she could see the crossbows at least. She let loose a shock sphere at the two still on the balcony. They turned and fired back at her. One of them hit, and she groaned. She still wasn't feeling well from their last attack, but they kept moving forward. There was a crunch as they moved off the balcony and hit the floor, but it wasn't enough to slow them down much.

She stayed on the balcony and kept lobbing spells at the crossbows. For a short while, her mind cleared and she could see the gargoyles again. She cast light on the nearest one. Almost immediately it targeted her with some sort of spell, and she could no longer see them, but she could see the glow given off by the one she'd lit up. She kept targeting the crossbows. When her mind cleared again, she saw that the gargoyles were all headed into Blue Cheese's lab. They had to be trying to get the key back. She was no match for them, especially not when she couldn't see them, so she held back, and hoped Allonar had the sense to give up the key if cornered.

It seemed to take forever to take out all the walking crossbows. Horgta fought in and amongst them, while Dovra provided covering magical fire. Just before they finished them off, Allonar burst out of the lab and began desperately trying to hold the door shut. Well, he was alive, at least. Where in the blazes were Shenron and Heian? Shenron suddenly materialized from the staircase that led back down to the caves and the labyrinth, but there was still no sign of the rogue. Maybe Shenron had eaten him. It seemed unlikely, but Dovra wasn't entirely sure how trustworthy dragonborn were about such things. He'd eaten all that gold, after all.

With Shenron back in the game, it didn't take long to finish off the crossbows. Almost at the same moment, the gargoyles pushed their way past Allonar's hold on the door and burst back onto the main floor. One of them now had the key. From the looks of things, they were trying to get it back to the room it had started in. Dovra climbed down to the main floor, but she was quickly hit by another dazing blast that hid the gargoyles from her. Thankfully, Shenron seemed to be immune, and other allies were missed, so they could tell her where to direct her attacks. She didn't need to aim her thunderwave so much as point it in the right direction. Presumably they were whittling down the ranks of the gargoyles. At least, the ones who could see them were still fighting, and seemed to change targets regularly. Finally the dazing wore off and she could see them again.

Allonar was busy pursuing the gargoyle with the key. When maybe half the gargoyles were gone, he managed to grab the key and run for the door again. This time he tried pointing the key at the door, and apparently there was a keyhole now, since he inserted the key and turned. Dovra looked towards him as he froze in place, threw the key in, and slammed the door shut again. "Rather large rat in there!" he called out. Judging by the look on his face, it must have been even bigger than the dire rats they'd run into in the labyrinth. A loud thump at the door sounded more like a bear than a rat.

More fighting. The gargoyles knew the key was behind the door, and they fought their way to it, and opened it. The rat ran past them and attacked the first thing that got in its way. It was the size of a small bear. Dovra muttered to herself. She'd told them to take a rest before playing with the gargoyles and crossbows, and now they were all exhausted, and here was a bloody great rodent to top it all off. It seemed like only a moment later that she realized there was only one gargoyle still moving. It was badly hurt, but it still had the key. Dovra didn't pay much attention to who was fighting what, but when that gargoyle was dead, she moved close enough for her mage hand to come in and grab the key. Chances were good that Blue Cheese wouldn't have made a key that large that did nothing more than open a door. She'd have to take a closer look at it after the battle.

The only enemy still moving was now the rat. Everyone but Shenron wanted to barricade themselves in and let it wear itself out, but Shenron wouldn't listen to anyone, and kept fighting. Dovra sighed. She could throw phantom bolts at it from a distance without putting herself at any risk. Shenron and Allonar had it trapped on the balcony with the door, after all. Still, her heart wasn't really in it and most of her attacks missed. Finally she got fed up and scored a critical hit against it. It was only a tiny drop in the bucket, but it cheered her up a bit. When the rat was finally dead, she glared at the idiot men around her and stalked back into the lab. She was tempted to barricade the door against them, but decided against it. She did barricade the trap door with one of the mostly intact cupboards before climbing into a different cupboard and drifting off into a much-needed sleep.

Someone tapped on the cupboard just as she was starting to wake up. It was Shenron. "Er, are you any good with healing? Allonar got bitten by that rat thing and his filth fever's getting worse." Dovra sighed and sat up with Allonar while the fever raged through him. It took two tries, but she managed to pull him back out of it. To pass the time, she played with an orb puzzle that Blue Cheese had laying around, only puzzle wasn't the right word. It gave mostly useless information and then she had to make a guess. She managed to pick out one orb correctly, but the other three were destroyed. Still, an Orb of Ultimate Imposition was a nice find. She looked around and realized Heian was still missing. Maybe Shenron really did eat him.

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