Monday, November 19, 2018

D'n'D resumed! Political developments...

So last Tuesday we finally resumed the Dungeons and Dragons game that I've been playing in (as opposed to the one I've been running for my children, which has also been delayed but not as long). It's been at least six weeks, and apparently I missed the last game before the extended hiatus.

Our characters had located an ancient ruin in the desert, found our way inside, and successfully retrieved the Ancient Magical Siege Weapons - and then promptly had to use them to fend off a horde of attacking undead, because our bard has no sense of self-preservation and Touched The Thing when he shouldn't have. We'd used a portal to get inside, and it took some looking to find a way back out. Finally, though, we found a carved magical gate, which led us into another set of ruins and out into the crypts below a temple.

It was there we met a young sorceress, apparently mute, with a parrot for a familiar. She'd come into the crypts in search of something - treasure, probably, or maybe just mischief - and gotten trapped by undead. Once we established that we weren't undead and didn't seem likely to gnaw on her skull, she helped us find the way back to the surface.

This placed us firmly in a town whose name I've completely forgotten, but which is basically Sidequest City. And boy, have we done some side-quests. In no particular order:
  • We've looked over the local temple, where they worship a chaotic sea god.
  • We've figured out that the wizard who was selling dragon-protection potions was basically just scamming people.
  • The bard and my rogue/ranger helped the bard's most recent girlfriend break into the wizard's house in search of a magical treasure, which she apparently took for herself right before turning the wizard into a statue and leaving town.
  • We've gone in search of a missing sword, which was a wedding a gift for the local lord's also-missing son, found it, and returned it to the lord.
  • We've trapped and destroyed the vampire who murdered the lord's son.
  • We've been spying on another lord from nearby ("Naima" or something similar) as he coordinated with chieftains from the desert barbarians and the local bugbear tribes.

This is probably not the most efficient way to carry out our duties to the fort and its soldiery, but we kind of needed the time to figure out what to do on that front. The issue is that... well... we were assigned to bring the Magical Siege Weapons back to the fort for the Baron's use. The best way to get them out of the ruins would be to carry them through the magical gate. We don't want to do that while we're here, obviously, but the gate could be moved - except it's large, made of stone, hidden in a crypt, and not easy to either remove or to transport, even if nobody objected. So: sidequests, and looking for ways to ingratiate ourselves with the local lord, whose name is Crock or something like it.

Well, we're pretty ingratiated now that we've solved the mystery of his son's disappearance, returned the wedding gift, and avenged the son's death. So naturally the local lord invited us to a party at his manor. This required us to find dates - and not with other people in our party, either. About that, well... the less said the better. My skulking would-be Batman (ranger/rogue) wound up going with a sort of emo druid, for whom we also need to perform a sidequest.

Anyway, we arrived at the part, and not only was the local lord there, but among the various other notables was the villainous lord Naima (or however you spell that). During the mingling-before-dinner stage of the event, Naima stopped a couple of our party members and essentially offered them jobs. He was, he said, putting together an invasion, and the lord Crock had assured him that we were the sort of group that could get things done. With the bugbears and the desert tribes behind him, the fort would fall and he would be able to press into Sol Povos. This wasn't entirely new to us, of course. Not only had we been spying on them for the last week or two, but we'd actually invaded the guy's house on the suspicion that he was involved in the attacks on the fort. As soldiers in the border guard of Sol Povos, well... basically, part of the reason we were out here was to deal with the situation he wanted us to help him create.

Our bard mentioned that he'd heard some indications that the invasion was actually going to be a bluff, that lord Naima and his allies were likely to be sacrificed as part of some deeper plot (which is true), but lord Naima wasn't having it. He considered his victory inevitable. "It's too bad the Baron will have to die," he told us. "Still, his bloodline won't go to waste. I'll take his wife for my own, and each of you could have one of his daughters." The bard assured him that we'd think about it, and then everybody sat down for dinner. (Some of us in the main dining hall, some of us outside.)

Dinner was... interesting. Lord Crock had apparently had enough of Lord Naima, and began insulting him. He even asked our fighter, "Which daughter did he promise you, then?"

Our bard managed to defuse the situation before it got too ugly, but the villainous lord Naima stormed out of the room and went down to the wine cellar, where his bugbear ally was already fourteen bottles into his own celebration. This seemed to consist largely of lying on the floor with no pants on, drinking liver-killing amounts of wine, and singing off-key. The bard took that opportunity to step outside and bring my character up to date.

Vendril thought about all this for a couple of minutes, then excused himself from the emo druid and went inside. He stationed himself inside the house, at the top of the steps to the wine cellar. Below, he could hear lord Naima pacing back and forth and muttering things like "kill him... didn't need him" between snatches of drunken bugbear songs. By the time he came back up the stairs, Vendril had decided that Lord Naima was the sort of man who clearly needed a knife in his kidney, so I put one there.

By the time the dust settled, Vendril and the young sorceress had taken down lord Naima and the bugbear (who was fighting with a broken bottle and no pants), while the fighter and the cleric held off and eventually killed the two barbarian war-leaders. Lord Crock even heard enough to step in and get involved in taking out lord Naima. So at the end of the party, a big chunk of the visible leadership for the invaders was dead, our party was remarkably (and luckily) unscathed, and Vendril clapped lord Crock on the shoulder and told him that he threw the best parties.

Friday, November 16, 2018

Today's Horoscope

I was going to write about the last episode of the DnD game (the one I play in, not the one I'm running for the boys) but I was too tired. So, instead, you get today's horoscopes as I posted them on Twitter:

Aries:
You'll discover an ancient manuscript hidden behind a false wall in the closet. If you decide to translate it, do *not* read any part out loud.

Libra:
Today will be a day for resolving interpersonal problems. It'll be tricky, but you'll manage. Dishwashing detergent mixed with water will do better than baking soda to get the blood out of the carpet.

Taurus:
Pick your battles today. No, not those battles. That's a bad choice. Pick different battles. You really need to rethink this whole strategy.

Scorpio:
Don't let anyone get their claws into you today. Get your claws into them instead. Use fangs if needed. And venom. Just go ahead and use as much venom as you need. You're a fearsome beast, so act like it.

Gemini:
You won't know if you're coming or going today. You *really* need to fix the oscillation modulator on your prototype teleportation pod.

Sagittarius:
Oh, you really shouldn't have done that. Just go back home now and find a place to hide for a while. It should all blow over in a few days, as long as nobody sees you.

Cancer:
Don't hide your flame under a bushel. Share it with the world. All the world. Watch it burn. Savor the inferno.

Capricorn:
All you really need to know about today is that the idiot who cut you off in traffic this morning is going to get into a really bad accident going home. Also, you're welcome.

Leo:
Great things are coming your way soon. They're bloodthirsty and really fast. You should really start running. Now. Water will throw them off the scent.

Aquarius:
Check the wards on your home, and keep some ash and oak nearby. You're going to need them.

Virgo:
Following the left wall won't work. The maze keeps changing. It'll only let you out if you coax it, so just keep talking about how cool the place is while you make your way along.

Pisces:
Today will bring an end to strife, and possibly all life on the planet as well; make sure your shelter is fully stocked, and you don't need to make a last-minute run for whiskey or chocolate.

Thursday, November 15, 2018

The Dark Inside Her Bones: First Period

Kate was almost to her next class when Kisha stepped out of the bathroom, stopped abruptly, and gave her almost the same look that Julian had. She slowed, stopped, and returned the girl's regard. "Yes?"

"Girl..." Kisha drew the word out, then stopped and said, in a clipped, precise, academic accent: "What have you done?"

Kate opened her mouth, closed it again, then made herself take a breath. "Okay," she said. "I know you aren't working with Julian, so what the hell is going on? Why do you guys keep staring at me?"

Kisha stopped, eyes wide and head slightly turned. Then her eyes narrowed, and she grabbed Kate's hand and pulled her into the bathroom. Kate didn't fight it; privacy suddenly seemed like a very good idea.

When the door swung shut behind them, Kisha stepped back and looked her over. "You're... more than you were yesterday. And it wasn't one of those half-assed white-boy rituals that Julian and his friends with Families are so proud of, either."

That was when everything fell into place. "Oh, shit," said Kate, stepping back and leaning against the wall. "There was a shadow in my brother's room. He's afraid of the dark, and it kept coming back, and he was waking up. He was waking us up."

Kisha looked puzzled. "So you...?"

"I got tired of it. I told it to stop bothering us."

Kisha's eyes widened. "You took it into you."

Kate nodded warily.

"That's..." Kisha shook her head. "You've got some balls, girl."

Kate shook her head and looked away. "I was just frustrated and angry."

"...But you must have walked into the dark. You must have spoken with it. It must have understood you."

Kate stopped, frozen by the memory, and felt the shadow raise itself to look out through her eyes again. It curled around her spine, wary and interested, then withdrew. "...Yes," she said, when that moment had passed.

"And Julian noticed too? Dismore?"

Kate nodded uncertainly.

Kisha let out a breath, eyes narrowed. "Maybe we can confuse him. Get to your class, I'll find you after."

Kate nodded, turned towards the door, and then turned back. "Kisha?"

The other girl looked at her. "Yeah?"

"Thank you."

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Fluidized Sand

It's been a while since the Mad Scientist has checked in, but here's a bit of coolness in case you've been missing it:

This was the genesis of Firstborn's Science Fair project. If you listen carefully, you'll hear the guy in the video say something like, "We went through about twenty-five versions before we got it to work." Annnnnnnnnd, yeah, that sounds about right. Sheesh.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Urgle Blarg

Who am I, again? What was I doing? What century is this anyway? Does anybody here remember my name, and if so could you remind me what it is?

This morning was seriously like:

...Except I don't get any cool transformations out of it.

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Send Whiskey, STAT

We're attempting to deal with the underlying intestinal issues that resulted in Secondborn having hernia surgery back at the beginning of the summer. This involves the child drinking a very great deal of some of the foulest-tasting medicines imaginable. And if there's one thing an eight-year-old boy wants to know when he finds himself in such dire straits, it's that someone else is suffering as he suffers. On this day, his mother is the chosen sacrifice. She, too, is Taking The Medicine. She, too, partakes of the suffering.

I, meanwhile, have had to pop into work twice because the automated job I'm running to clean up my database and make it run better is also locking people out of the database and making it (effectively) not run at all, at least until I go in and reset the connection. Which means I've got to find a better way to do this, because there is literally never a time when we have nobody in the system. This, however, is more of a practical annoyance and an existential worry; what's killing me right now is Firstborn's Science Fair Project, which is due Tuesday, and which has been "almost done" for perhaps four weeks now.

"Almost done" (for those of you who aren't parents or are otherwise unfamiliar with the phrase) means "we've got some of it put together but we haven't tested anything, and it's almost certainly not going to work the way we want it to, but we really don't have time to rebuild it from the ground up." In this particular case, it also means that I keep moving the thing outdoor to test it, then back indoors because I can't be sure that it isn't going to rain. This would all be much easier if I had an unlimited budget and a team of engineers and craftsmen under my direction. I'd look like a fucking genius if I had an unlimited budget and a team of engineers and craftsmen under my direction. Instead, I have a recalcitrant twelve-year-old, a lot of pvc, an air pump, some sand, a hot glue gun, and the rapidly receding hope that all this will somehow come together into a working fluidized sand bed.

Don't send hopes and prayers.

Send whiskey.

(I'd hoped to crank out a few more pages of story this weekend, but... no. Just, no. But that's okay, I'm not bitter.)

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Human Nature

I'm beginning to think that a surprisingly large number of problems in our society actually boil down to the fact that a large percentage of the population can't tell the difference between Decisive Leadership and Basic Assholery.