New on Desk #84 — Potato Week

Just a quick one.

The bibliothecographical emergency of the year

Last summer I moved and stored my brother’s geek stuff library to the back yard storehouse here. We did a bit of flea market sales on some easy to move items (video games, mainly), but for the most part the stocks have been allowed to lie fallow since then. Working great, really: the storage is insulated enough to keep a stable temperature through the winter, it’s dry and generally not a bad place to keep books and such.

However, on Wednesday we noticed that not everything was well in the book paradise. While we’d mostly dedicated this particular room for library use (and my personal Pepsi storage, apparently, because geek books and geek soft drinks go together), my father had wanted to store like 100 liters of potatoes in there last fall for whatever goddamn reason. (Really, not like he doesn’t have 20 other places to put his seed potatoes.) He’s the patriarch, so sure, put your potatoes in an air-tight plastic box and store them in the library.

So of course this demented potato-squirreling ended up in what in hidsight was the inevitable outcome: come spring, the man has completely forgotten about his secret potato stash. Actually plants a bunch of his other stashes, and buys more potatoes to plant some more. And I’ve forgotten about the library potatoes as well, not like I don’t have anything better to be thinking about than his potatoes. Means that potato box is forgotten to freely… ripen.

So we finally noticed the potatoes, and the leaking box (because of course the box they’re stored in has small fractures in its bottom, this wouldn’t be nearly as amusing a tale with an actually water-tight box). The potato is as potato does, so they’d rotted most delightfully. Being sane, I only opened the box outside in the open air. Nice biohorror imagery in there… rotting potato smells, as they like to say in anglo literary phrasing, “sickly sweet”. The potatoes went into the compost, and in a just world I don’t need to think about them any more. I do now imagine smelling them from across the yard any time the wind turns towards my office, though.

Meanwhile, the leaks of starchy potato juices had encouraged a mold growth underneath the box. I’d layered the floor of the room in several carpets last summer when renovating it into a library (for insulation, and to get the carpets out of the way), so there was this nice multi-carpet mold situation, with the floor underneath getting its fair share of the staining.

Aside from discarding the potatoes themselves, we, my brother and I, worked for the entire evening in a librarianship rage to remove this stain from an otherwise fairly serviceable storage unit: I threw out two carpets (and a fairly sizable part of a third one), and bro found some pretty nice electronic tools for quick floor renovation. After planing and sanding the stained floor-boards the general conclusion was that we’d probably removed enough of the damp and mold to keep the rest of the library from being infected.

As a sort of side effect of the clean-up, we also moved one particularly annoying old-fashioned sofa from out of the library and into secondary storage with other essentially-useless extra furniture (this household has a hoarding problem), which I guess means that we ultimately ended up improving the library’s usability a fair bit. The room’s been a bit over-burdened by the amount of material we’re trying to store, so without the sofa I’ll probably be able to rearrange things a bit, making it easier to access everything when necessary. I don’t foresee the newly planed portion of the floor causing any practical issues (I’ll probably just cover it with a carpet anyway, so not like anybody’s going to get a splinter from it) So that’s a silver lining in the entire potato fiasco.

Moral of the story: don’t store potatoes in your library. There’s basically no way for that to end up well. The absolute best-case scenario is that you’re not actually gaining anything, because those damn potatoes could just as well be stored literally anywhere else. And the worst case is that you infect your books with a potato mold. Dig a hole and put the potatoes there for the winter if you genuinely can’t think of another place to store them in. That’s what the potatoes do in the wild.

Law𝕟et wars continue unabated

In case you thought that the potato episode was my only vaguely-rural anecdote for the week, rest assured that I’ve spent something like ~30 working hours this week installing that robot mower, most of it in searing hot sun. Several hundred meters of cable to lay, various plantations to fence out of the robot’s way, and I also managed to talk myself into expanding the yard like 5×50 = 250 square meters as part of the process of defining the edges of the garden. After all, can’t lay out cabling in the edges of the garden without knowing where the edges are.

The southern edge of our yard is something of a moving target, or a matter of taste: it ends where the mowing ends. Back in the olden times (20th century) the edge used to be defined by a ditch, but after that’s been piped over and my brother bought the immediate neighbour’s fallow meadow, it’s been basically a matter of taste as to how far south we maintain the garden.

Becoming a frontiersman, scything down high grasses, allowed me to make discoveries hidden by the grass. (No grass pokemon, unless you count the smallest and cutest frogs.) I found a mid-sized saskatoon tree/bush that will now, I suppose, join the gardening process instead of being allowed to grow free. (The elders of the family tell me that the tree has grown from birds carrying seeds from our large saskatoon; you might remember that one as the object of my thrush war earlier in July.) I can sort of remember knowing that the tree is there, I just haven’t had to care about it before it just now became a southern edge landmark of the garden’s New Territory. Interestingly the tree seems to be producing its fair share of berries, but the birds haven’t picked it clean; my working theory is that the high grass has been hiding the berries from the thrushes.

Also, some fairly promising raspberry bushes. I left those largely alone for now, in case somebody cares to weed them out from the high grass at some point. I feel like we have too many berry-bushes of various sorts as is, but maybe more raspberries wouldn’t hurt.

Lifehack time, by the way: if you have a hat with a chin strap, and one of those plastic freezer cooling thingies, those can be combined for a pretty nice heat regulation device by putting the cooler element inside the hat, and the hat on your head. The chin strap keeps the arrangement in place, and instead of enjoying an overheating brain courtesy of heat-stroke, the brain can keep whirring away at reasonable operating temperatures even when spending the entire day gardening out in the sun. Genius invention. Just pay attention to the actual heat situation; using the device unnecessarily seems like a fairly straightforward way to develop an icecream headache, and you don’t even get the ice cream.

Regarding law𝕟et installation process: we’re like 95% done. Just got to block off some berry bushes, maybe find ~20 meters more cable from somewhere, and put the last ~50 meters of the cable underground. One day’s work, all told. The system’s complete enough to run the robot, now over the entire yard, so it’s been puttering around today all productive-like. Shame the growing season is almost over. Then again, we’ve now put so many hours into the installation that the robot needs to work like 10 summers to make up for it.

Monday: Coup de Main #57

As has been discussed, I’m on a furlough from GMing the Monday Coup, with Tuomas ably taking care of the proceedings. This is going so well that we might just keep doing this until I’ve finished with Muster.

Teemu keeps me abreast of what goes on in the game with detailed after action reports, though. Let’s see:

Session 57 saw our fearless heroes after a couple of days of relative peace, having rested and recuperated from their somewhat harrowing trials in the ancient, foul barrows of the hero Brandon. But as adventurers are by their very nature restless and desiring of violence and danger, these two days of rest were enough to sow anxiety and a need to strike out once again. The dwarves had not turned up by themselves, and their mine was nearby, so no further pondering was necessary.

The group thus set out, mostly the same as last time, though the wizard Cifnygg was still missing, and a new member was recruited in his place; a local boy, who the group took to calling Boy. The lad was a local man, the offspring of a pear farmer, and had apparently been taken by the group’s tales of harrowing adventures and riches. While he had no distinguishing features or marks of greatness about him, save perhaps a great supply of pears, he seemed eager and ready. And thus, his fate was sealed; few who step onto the path of the adventurer ever leave it, other than the way each and every one of us leaves this mortal coil eventually.

The group found the mine easily enough, and faced no danger on their way, and upon their arrival the reason for the dwarves’ absence became obvious: the mine had collapsed, and the surrounding buildings had been put to torch. Naught but ruin and destruction remained.

The group, suspecting goblins or other threat, or perhaps even the dragon, crept in slowly and carefully, poised for lurking threats. They found none, and while some watched, others started sifting through the wreckage. The destruction was utter, the foundry and the cottage of the dwarves destroyed down to the foundation and the mine collapsed shut deep enough that even the ventilation shaft on top of the hill was filled with rubble. True malice had been inflicted upon the place.

It was Artemur who made the fateful find, uncovering a decaying corpse of a dwarf under the rubble of the mine entrance. In the dead dwarf’s finger was a ring of fine make, and the fey man, on a whim, tried it on his own. Suddenly, he was seized by strange visions of a dwarf, the very same who lay dead at his feet – and to make matters stranger, the apparition seemed to be aware of both its surroundings and Artemur.

After some confusion and bewilderment, the vision explained itself to be Grimni, the dead dwarf and headman of the destroyed mine, and that the ring on Artemur’s finger was a strange artifice that captured the owner’s soul, or a part of it at least, upon death. Thus, the dwarf’s mind had been spared oblivion.

Grimni was bewildered not only by his death, but also by the destruction of his mine. Of his final moments he had only chaotic recollections, but they were enough to put together a narrative of many final moments: Grimni and his brother dwarves had set up their mine and toiled long in content, but all had changed when they had struck gold. Some time after that, Grimni had found his own brother, Brol, conspiring to destroy the mine, and had been struck down in the ensuing explosion. He suspected that the kinslayer’s mind had been corrupted by the riches, for Brol had always been of a greedy sort, suffering particularly from the curse that afflicted all Dwarvenkind.

Further search turned up a whole heap of blackened dwarven remains (as well as some modest riches that were snatched up without much word) in the wreck of the cottage; it seemed that all, save Grimni and one other, had been locked inside their own cabin and burned alive. At the same time, Kermit the hermit uncovered heavily burdened tracks leading away from the site.

Grimni, whose only desire now was to rest easy, demanded revenge to the foul kinslayer who had traded the lives of his brothers for bloody gold. Artemur explained all this, rather awkwardly, to the rest of the group, and then swore to right this wrong. At this, Grimni eagerly told the group of a cave the dwarves had found earlier, some distance north of the mine, and that he suspected that Brol would likely seek to hide there with his gold.

It was noted by many that the direction of the cave was the very same that the local hunter had fingered as the likely location of the dragon’s lair. Some recalled stories of how dwarven greed could be great enough to turn a creature of simple toil into a beast of utter covetousness – a dragon! The rough timeline of the situation lent support to such thought as well. No conclusions could be drawn yet, but all of the adventurers were now wary and prepared for the worst.

Having no more reason to dwell at the site of the tragedy, the group followed the tracks and Grimni’s advice north. The rest of the day passed mostly uneventfully, save for a fitful summer storm that drenched everyone to the bone and threatened to lay Boy low. By the evening, the group had arrived near the supposed lair of the traitorous dwarf (or possibly the dragon) but chose to camp farther away and only approach at dawn. They slept lightly, knowing that the foul beast might well lurk nearby.

In the morning, the cave was sighted, and one glance affirmed all suspicion: the cave was surrounded by ruined trees, scorched as if by scalding acid, and great heavy tracks led into the cave. It was, indeed, the lair of the dragon.

Artemur volunteered to scout out the cave and crept close with all stealth. Kneeling down, he spied the glimmer of gold inside and heard great, rasping breath; the beast slumbered. He also smelt acidic death, and quickly returned to the others.

At this, the adventurers started pondering, as adventurers often do; how might such a horrid beast be slain? Some, the great warriors in their ranks such as Sven and Artemur, considered rushing in and slaying the beast before it could rouse and realize the foul play. Other, such as Bob, wanted to ambush the creature and cast nets upon it. It was clear that any mistake would now be fatal, for any adventurer knew that dragons are beasts of a most horrid and lethal aspect.

Their pondering and debating were cut short when a great roar sounded from the cave. Heralded by great, billowing clouds of yellowish death, the dragon emerged from its cave! It was horrid to behold, a great and horrid lizard, crawling upon its belly and foul airs erupting from its jaws with every breath.

The adventurers scant had time to spread out and get low. The beast, however, did not seem to notice them, and instead started to crawl away, no doubt to hunt for more villagers to consume. Now was the time to strike! The adventurers, from all directions, with great fury and great, panicked eagerness, sprang out and charged!

The fight was fierce and horrid. While the initial charge of the deadly warriors, Sven and Artemur (followed by Bob and Stone, and then Ælfstan) was crushing, the dragon would not be so easily bested. It struck back with venomous fangs, wicked claws and great clouds of acidic gas. All were fit to slay a man in the blink of an eye, and it struck with all fury. At the same time, its scales were hard as rock and turned aside all but the most furious of attacks.

It was Artemur and Sven, the two who charged in first, who finally slew the beast. Artemur’s sword, the blade of Brandon, fairly gleamed with hate for the beast, and he lay into the dragon with great, smiting blows. At the same time, Sven harried it with his shorter blade, Herja, even leaping atop it and entrapping one of its great claws so as to expose the beast’s throat.

The others, also, did their part. Ælfstan procured a potion that kept Artemur’s vigor up in the face of the beast’s relentless offence, and Stone, Bob and Kermit harried the beast with blows and arrows when they could. Even Boy climbed up a tree and cast pears at the beast with all his meager strength.

I’ve heard secondary sources tell that the dragon was not much affected by the pear-throwing. Just so you know, pears are not spears.

In the end, the beast was slain, and all of the group still stood defiant – if battered. Their pains quickly faded away when they cast glances into the beast’s lair: mounds of gold and glittering gems!

Once dead, the dragon did not stay a lizard, but seemed to melt away completely, leaving only the remains of a dwarf behind. Such a phantasmagoric sight confirmed the group’s suspicions. What low greed!

Speaking of greed, the group eagerly loaded the dwarf-turned-dragon’s hoard onto quickly constructed sleds and headed towards the town. Some murmured about the gold possibly being cursed, but who could truly resist the beastly allure of such riches?

The trip back to civilization was as uneventful as before, and the group quickly sought out the reeve and recounted their strange tale. At first, the lawman was most suspicious of this, especially since the group had no dragon’s corpse to show as proof, only a dwarven skull, but Artemur’s words and the words of Grimni the dwarf from the ring managed to assure the reeve that things had indeed been put to right. And thus was the tale of the dragonslayers ended in success and victory.

Over the coming days, the town of Brandonsford would celebrate the champions and the promised reward of one thousand gold pieces was presented to them with great celebration. And while this all was greatly heartening to the adventurers their minds were upon the great piles of loot they had amassed.

For days, the group watched hawkishly over their hoarded riches, waiting for the funds and the expert that Father William had requested be brought into the town so that all the loot could be exchanged for cold, hard money. They were as if dragons themselves, nearly slumbering upon their hoard in fear that someone would snatch it away. But thankfully, nothing suchlike occurred – for it was certain that they fury, too, would have been as that of robbed dragons.

When the expert finally arrived, he brought with him two rich, fat merchants, and everything was estimated, weighted and carefully bartered over. At the end of the day, none of the adventurers could voice complaints: their wealth ran into thousands and thousands of gold coins, and each of them was now richer than most had ever been. Most of them earned well over two thousand gold pieces from all the various travails. Even Boy, who had only embarked upon this path on a lark, was now laden with gold and silver so that he could barely carry his own riches with him.

With all this concluded, the adventurers took a well-earned rest, but the beastly greed of a draconian plunderer is not easily sated: already some of them were wondering what other riches awaited for them, and what other dangers they could court. But for now, they were heroes one and all!

Quite the breakthrough! We’ve had some fairly promising treasures in the past, but this dragon hoard may well be the finest in the campaign yet. The party’s getting to be pretty mid-leveled. Slaying dragons and not afraid of anything.

Session #58 is scheduled for tomorrow, Monday 9.8., starting around 15:00 UTC. Feel free to stop by if you’re interested in trying the game out or simply seeing what it’s like.

Tuesday: Coup in Sunndi #34

I’m supposed to take a hiatus from the Tuesday game as well one of these days, but events have conspired to delay it. Like this week, my replacement GM had a flu, so instead of introing Tomb of the Iron God, the campaign did some secondary action with yours truly.

Lokki’s Tale

We started the session with a relatively abstract yet high-stakes matter: Lokki the Warlock is a 2nd level puppy-kicker who’s been mainlining “physical cultivation”, a specific magic system involving the controlled transformation of human flesh into denser, more game-mechanically potent form that I sometimes like to call “monsterflesh”. You know how dark elves, despite being roughly human-sized, have 4 Hit Dice? That’s monsterflesh for you.

So Lokki’s been working towards his 3rd tier transformation, and he’s been taking some grave liberties with the training program that Gorilla Grodd, the guru of the gym, had laid out for him. Two central kinds of liberties, in fact:

Princess cultivation: Lokki had been in recuperation after being injured in the Tournament of Fear, and while taking it easy, he had managed to wheedle an elder brother from the gym into loaning him a mysterious book that said bro had been studying in an effort to shift the course of his cultivation. (The poor guy doesn’t want to turn into a stronk gorilla.) So Lokki has been reading this cultivation manual from a different tradition, and adapting tips and tricks from it for his own use. Apparently it’s some kind of princessing guide from the times of the Baklunish Empire, intended for high-class ladies desirous of improving their looks and youthfulness by the means of cultivation.

The tiger business: One of the great prizes that were sewn around like candy at the Tournament of Fear was an adult tiger, 7 HD. One of the player characters, H.Orc, claimed the tiger for some goddamn foolish reason, but what happened next was even more foolish: H.Orc was injured so badly in the tournament that his pirate “friends” decided to sell him off to Lokki instead of putting the effort into his recovery. (They’re Evil, what did you expect!) So the tiger goes with, and what does Lokki do? Why, he decides to kill the tiger and eat its heart as an improvised variation on Grodd’s “hunt and eat dinosaurs to grow stronger” cultivation method. Surely a tiger not being a dinosaur doesn’t matter…

So Lokki has gone off the reservation in a fairly big way in his cultivation; he’s practicing what I call “heterodox” cultivation in the sense that he’s straying from the tested and true practices of his cultivation school. And that could spell trouble for him: the way the cultivation rules work, a character combining unharmonized cultivation practices risks having a complication in his cultivation. Physical cultivation is, after all, about reforming your very bodily nature; what else will anchor you in this deed, if not the carefully developed cultivation tradition?

We rolled the dice for Lokki, and he almost got away with it, too: the tiger’s heart, mathematically the likeliest issue, didn’t cause a complication. However, the relatively minor influences from the Baklunish princess cultivation tradition proved savage. Just 13% odds at the end of the dice-rolling scheme, yet sometimes that’s what happens to the best of us. (In hindsight, pretty bold to gamble with odds that high.)

What happened to Lokki was no more or less than total Chimairation, the process of being mutated in an uncontrolled manner by the unknown physical alchemies of the incompatible cultivation traditions. We diced for what exactly would happen to him, and, well, the list of mutations does indeed describe ye liveliest awfulness:
A rift opened in his spine, shining bright green light.
His blood would ignite to fire in open air. (At -1 HP before this, extra +4 damage didn’t help.)
He grew a second head. (Determined to be a mindless deer’s head, braying wildly.)
He grew horns. (In one of his heads.)
He grew something else in his other head, I forget what.
He developed a resistance to fire.

Might have been something else as well, but yeah, it was a horrible twisting of the human form. Lokki might have died then and there if not for his cultivation buddies dragging his misshapen form into the healing coffin that Lokki himself had constructed earlier; it stabilized his burns and such. However, with the shame of the Chimairation, and the associated attribute losses (this seems to hit players particularly hard), Lokki chose to retire from play, moving to live in the Temple of Doom random encounter tables. One of the nameless monsters of the dark depths.

The road to Dalmond

After dealing with Lokki’s travails, the rest of the session was more filler. We didn’t want to start anything too complex, as there were just four of us, and with the next session supposed to be the start of the Tomb of the Iron God, it didn’t make much sense to start anything complex.

After going over some maintenance stuff (other characters with less dramatic stuff than Lokki, some adventure hook discussions, etc.), I pitched a bit of an adventure-bordering activity: the players had some foot-loose characters in the princedom of Aidrin, the Tomb that Sipi’s supposed to run for them is in Dalmond (some 120+ miles north-northwest), so why not travel to Dalmond to scout around a bit and present Sipi with a fait accompli for next time? It might be fun to generate some fictional context that we could inform Sipi about.

So there was this merchant fellow with an ambitious idea of re-opening trade with the fallen princedom of Dalmond, and he was willing to take adventurers with him, perhaps even pay a bit for mercenary security. Some characters even decided to invest a bit into his “Dalmond triangle trade” plans in the hopes of profits. A bit of an impromptu merchant prince adventure scheme, if you will.

(Dalmond is a princely state in the grip of anarchy: the place lost its ruling family and got scoured of government institutions in a reaving performed by the imperial forces during Sunndi’s war of independence five-ish years back. Nobody here in Aidrin quite knows what the situation there is like.)

We had an excuse to travel to Dalmond, and it could be accomplished in what was left of the session, so off we went! The caravan got all the way into Starland, the neighboring princedom to Dalmond before the PCs managed to unearth a side quest of sorts. Apparently hearing about the tomb cairn of a local war hero means that you got to go rob the grave.

The result was some fairly solid, quick, punchy adventuring. I’ll summarize the main points of the events:
We leave the merchant caravan to trade at the palace while the adventurers adventure.
The adventurers spend the night at a village close to the tomb cairn.
Gnoll reavers attack the village in the night, sent packing by the adventurers.
Learn about the gnolls supposedly being cursed temple warriors from a Dalmondian temple.
On the way to the cairn, meet some refugees from Dalmond.
At the cairn, the gnolls happen to camp on top of the cairn hill.
Fight the gnolls, find a chest full of gold coins.

The damn adventure module tells me that the gnolls (7 in total) have a chest of 2000 gold pieces! This is so much money that the adventurers actually got quite paranoid about it: where did the gnolls get that much money? Who owns this gold? It’s packed into neat cloth bags inside a heavily ornamented temple-style chest… fuck, that story about the gnolls coming from the Seven Stars Temple is true, and they’ve apparently stolen part of the temple’s treasury.

The adventurers split the money between them and agreed to be very, very quiet about the money so as to avoid having the local prince or whomever taking it from them. Sunndi is a heavily stratified society in general, it’s pretty obvious (at least to me) that a naive “finder’s keepers!” legal position won’t fare too well if the matter of stolen temple wealth gets in front of a princely court.

The adventurers never got inside the actual cairn, by the way. I suppose it’s not that important once you’ve fought teenage mutant ninja gnolls (that was the theme of their merry gnoll band, which I guess supports the idea that they were cursed temple warriors before becoming bandits), but that’s how it goes sometimes.

It was also interesting how well the adventurers treated the various commoners they encountered on this little adventure: they ended up outright gifting 200 GP total to the villagers the gnolls had been harassing, and the refugees from Dalmond that they met (and sent into the village). It makes sense as a way to help the commoners to keep quiet about what happened, but for a group that often leans pretty heavily towards Chaotic Stupid or Thoughtlessly Evil, this was unusually Good.

Most significantly, with their pockets full of semi-illicit gold, the adventurers decided to leave the merchant caravan to its own devices and go back home to Aidrin! Amusing how they feel like Aidrin, the starting town of the campaign, is so much of a home base that that’s where they run when becoming flush with cash. (Probably has to do with them being worried that the merchant would figure out that they’re now clinking with unexplained gold coin.) Interesting to see what they’ll do with the money later on.

Does mean that when we get around to Sipi running the Tomb of the Iron God in Dalmond, it’s not going to be these specific characters adventuring there. They decided to go home, after all!

Twist in the plans

On Tuesday we were operating on the premise that next week would be time for the Tomb of the Iron God, as discussed above. I’ve since then learned that our very own Slave Paladin, John Hawkwood, player of, Antti (wasn’t that a nicely confusing phrasing) will be joining next Tuesday’s game, which actually means that I should prepare to finish our “Rescue Arush, and ourselves while at it” Temple of Doom adventure (newsletters #81–#82, a couple weeks back). The adventure was left floating due to Antti’s scheduling issues, but it’s so high stakes and interesting that we’ll surely want to finish that before letting Sipi start his piece.

State of the Productive Facilities

Starting to get a bit jumpy with how little I’ve been writing (things that are not the newsletter) lately. Maybe next week will be a writing week. At least the law𝕟et construction process is pretty close to done, so unless the local community thinks up some other distractions, I might write!

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