Category Archives: Games!

Touch Typing

It’s the little things that you notice. I was writing something, and just happened to notice that I was looking off into the distance while I was typing. It was one of those choices I made when I was very young. I was in High School, our school didn’t have a typing class, and I decided I needed to learn how. I don’t even remember why. It might have been my mom’s stories about learning, with those typewriters with no letters on the keys, when she was growing up.

Anyways, I remember taking one course, one of those summer enrichment things, up at Northern Secondary. I seem to recall I also took magic, stained glass, and board games, but those might have been different years. (Come to think of it, it might even have been before high school…) Interestingly, I remember this being my choice, perhaps an odd choice for a 12 year old. I don’t even remember why I thought it would be useful, but I remember acutely that I knew it would be. Perhaps similar to my choice to pursue chemical engineering over computers, as I knew that no matter what I did, I would be using computers.

I remember taking that one course, and it being fun…They had these cool puzzles where they gave you a sequence of commands to type, making simple versions of what I could only find online as ‘typewriter art’:

(Kind of early ASCII art, I wonder how much crossed over…)

In searching for the above, I found:

It’s Mastermind, but with words! 😀

Which apparently has also been published:

In a couple of different forms:

Anyways, I took these classes, but I don’t remember really using my typing until we had an email group in undergrad called the ‘Mailstrom’, often hitting 3 digits of messages per day, where quick wit (and quicker typing) was key.

I suspect there was also some training from playing computer games, but that would really only train a few keys (mostly ctrl and alt, from that era), and the mental mapping probably wouldn’t be from the hand motion to the letter.

And right now, I’m touch typing this, and it seems so normal/natural. Such a weird skill. Happy typing! 😀

Class Divisions

There are many computer games out there which have or purport to give the player the fighter/mage/thief* experience. The canonical examples for me are ‘Quest for Glory’ (Sierra) and ‘Keef the Thief’, probably because they were the first ones I played in the genre.

Most of these games will have different skills you can use to overcome the various obstacles the games throw your way. I’m interested in looking at these skills, and seeing how much each of the games actually lets you play a fighter, mage, or thief, and also how much each of the skills falls under one or more of these categories. But for this, well need some definitions…

The mage/non-mage division is probably the easiest to define, good canonical examples are ‘Ars Magica’ and the ‘Might and Magic’ series, where there are various types of magic users various types of non-magic users.

– Basically, a mage is someone who can do things that are outside of what a human could do at a medieval tech. level**.
– They also have some sort of internal power reserve which they use to perform these feats, a power reserve which recharges over time or when they rest. This power reserve is sometimes the same as ‘stamina’ (GURPS), ans sometimes not (D&D, TES, etc…)

‘Fighters’ and ‘Thieves’ have skills that one could conceivably acquire as a very well-trained human. The main difference is in the techniques used to solve problems.

– Tend to use very straight-forward methods to solve problems, often involving combat.
– Fighters will tend to have more combat skills and options than others

– Thieves tend to use more stealth, trying to find an adversary’s weak points, and using more non-combat skills, many of which have less than legal uses.
– Thieves will tend to have a wider variety of skills than others

There are also various skills which any ‘adventurer’ would require to get by in a fantasy world. Depending on the particular game and its game balance, these skills may fall under any one of the ‘classes’ above.

*I’m stepping somewhat away from the D&D Fighter/Mage/Cleric/Thief paradigm, but may revisit this in the future. There are a large number of games which merge all magic users into one, and that’s what I want to explore. Also, the idea of a separate class of ‘healers’ is an interesting concept/conceit, and it may be interesting to see how this is reflective of a society where people damage themselves all the time, and rely on one member of the group to heal them, rather than doing things in a more sustainable/mindful manner…

**’Tech. levels’ were first codified (that I saw) by GURPS: Most fantasy-type games feel like between 2 and 3 on this scale. Game balance wrt different ‘magic spells’ and their resepective tech. levels is a whole different interesting topic.

Personal Character Classes

Around the internet, you will find many quizzes which purport to tell you which archetypical ‘character class’ you most belong to. As you would expect, many of these quizzes are clickbait, and even if they weren’t, it’s relatively unlikely that the authors would have taken the time to poll some ‘gold standard*’ group of people to a statistically significant degree.

I’ve been (very slowly) taking a different tack. The plan was to write a story written from the perspective of a character falling into each each of each of the archetypes, to see which one(s) spoke to me the most**,***.

The first installment, ‘Druid’ currently has two parts available here:



*It does seem somewhat absurd to have a ‘gold standard’ of correctness for which fictional archetype one best fits into, but what can you do?

**The best analogy for this for me comes from the struggles of the protagonists in the Modesitt books ‘The Magic of Recluce’ and ‘The Magic Engineer’, where they say things out loud and see how their internal mental map/conscience twinges to see how true they are. Another analogy is presented by Paul Graham here: where he talks about ‘essays’ being trying out ideas in written form to see how well they work.

***Note that this does not get into issues of differences between what you feel as a person vs. what type of character you would play in a game.

Buck Rodgers: Countdown to a Better Ship

So, when I was growing up, I played all of the gold box games. One of the ones I don’t remember if I finished or not was Buck Rodgers: Countdown to Doomsday. One of the things that rankled was that you couldn’t upgrade or otherwise modify your ship. Also, in the course of the game, depending on how you play, you could destroy or capture dozens of enemy ships, many more powerful than yours. But you couldn’t fly one of them instead…

I did a couple of modifications which allowed you to have higher ship hitpoints (your ship has hitpoints in 6 areas: ‘Hull’,’Sens’,’Ctrl’,’Life’,’Fuel’,’Engn’), and more ship weapons. At the time, I wasn’t able to determine the hex location for the ‘current’ hitpoints, so I could only modify the maximum. This seemed reasonably game-balancing for me, as your party would salvage parts, then have to repair them themselves. (The one irritating part here was that when you went back to base for free repairs or fuel, they would ‘repair’ the current status back to the original values, so you had to fight space combats and repair it all the way back again.)

Now, with my recent success understanding and modifying the Pool of Radiance series (and probably more diligence now that I’m older), I’m going to try these games again, and see how it’s different with a snazzier ship (and different with the passing of time).

Analysis: Ascension CotG Constructs vs. Heroes

Often a difficult decision: Do you purchase the construct, which you may or may not be able to use multiple times, or do you purchase the more powerful hero, which you will be able to user every time?

How often you will be able to use a construct depends mainly on the other players in the game. In a four-player game, with identical players, you would expect your opponents to defeat the construct-destroying monsters three times as often as in a two-player game.

This article will concern itself with the two-player game.

Assuming a 20-round game, with each player purchasing one card per hand (and defeating the relevant monsters which appear).

There are two monsters in CotG which can destroy your opponent’s constructs:
Corrosive Widow (4 power, each opponent destroys one construct) [4 copies]
Sea Tyrant (5 power, each opponent destroys all constructs but one) [3 copies]

So of the 100 cards in the deck, 7 of them allow you to destroy some (or all) of your opponents constructs.

In a 20-round 2-player game, with 20 purchases per player (15 center row + 5 Mystic/Heavy Infantry), 30/72*28 = 11-12 monsters will appear, or about 3 construct-destroying monsters.

So you would acquire your construct, spend between 2 and 4 rounds waiting to play it, then every 7 rounds, you may be forced to destroy it. For the sake of argument, we’ll assume 3 rounds of waiting, followed by 4 rounds until it is destroyed, meaning a construct (if purchased before the last 7 rounds of the game) will be played once and used 3 times more.

Now, some comparisons:
The All-seeing Eye (6 runes/2 honour construct, draw one card per turn)
Ascetic of the Lidless Eye (5 runes/2 honour, draw two cards)

I’m comparing the All-seeing Eye to Ascetic of the Lidless Eye because they have the same effect of +1 card overall.

Interestingly, if you get to use a construct 4 times, the construct is about 4 times as powerful, for only one more rune in cost (although that is 5->6 runes, which is difficult to do, especially in early game). Our playtesting agrees with this assessment. We actually removed this construct from our games because it was far too unbalancing if purchased and played early (our games tend to be ‘friendlier’, with less deliberate defeating of monsters to destroy the other player’s constructs, and two-player, which would exacerbate these effects).

(Commenting on the rune:honour ratio of individual cards is for a later post.)

Comparison 2, +power constructs:
Militia (0 runes (assumed)/0 honour, add one power)
Shadow Star (3 runes/2 honour construct, add one power)
Yggdrasil Staff (4 runes/2 honour construct, add one power, can trade 4 runes for 3 honour)
Void Thirster (5 runes/3 honour construct, add one power, +1 honour for defeating a monster once/turn)

Demon Slayer (4 runes/2 honour, add three power)
Muramasa (7 runes/4 honour construct, add three power)

So, it looks like it’s plus 3 runes here to make the +1 power permanent (along with the requisite honour). (Similar to the difference on cost between Apprentice and Mystic and Landtalker.) In this case, 4×1 power is much less powerful (hah!) than 1×4 power, and these cards have never felt too overpowered to me. Perhaps Muramasa, but it’s rarely out until the endgame, and there are a lot of other quite powerful 7 rune cards.

Comparison 3, +rune construct:
Apprentice (0 runes (assumed)/0 honour, add one rune)
Snapdragon (5 runes/2 honour, add one rune, +1 honour for playing a lifebound hero once/turn)

The Snapdragon looks like it’s supposed to be the rune equivalent to the Void Thirster, but even during design of the first set, the designers noticed that runes are more powerful than power (hah again!); looking at the cost of Mystics and Heavy Infantry will show you this, amongst others.

I’ve found that Snapdragon, if you can keep it in play, is a less-subtle-than-you-think help, especially early game. I can understand why you wouldn’t have the 3- and 4- rune equivalents, as they would tend to crowd out other strategies (and be even that much easier to purchase in the first couple of turns).

A final note of comparison. Using the math from above (and previous analyses), we can assume that each rune and power produced by a construct or hero produces 1/2 of an honour point.

Looking at it again, under the following conditions:

No card banishing:
5,5 ->12 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, or 12 total)
5,5,2 ->14 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, or 14 total)
3,5,5,1 ->17 (3 completed turns, one carried over, ends with +3 cards, or 17 total)
4,5,5,3 ->20
2,5,5,5,3 ->24
2,5,5,5,5,2 ->29
3 (20 rounds)

Your construct would come out about 1.5 times, for 4 rounds each, and your hero would come out about 3 times, so your construct would be seen about twice as often.

Militia gives you 3 power, for 1.5 honour
Construct gives your 6 power, for 3 honour, at a cost of +3

Demon Slayer gives you 9 power, for 4.5 honour
Muramasa gives you 18 power, for 9 honour, at a cost of +3

Apprentice gives you 3 runes, for 1.5 honour
Snapdragon gives you 6 runes, for 3 honour, at a cost of +5

This feels slightly wrong, that the +1 power constructs don’t give you honour quite that often, so they’re probably pretty closely balanced with Snapdragon. Muramasa does actually feel 3 times as effective as the other constructs, so that’s fine. But all of this is based on so many assumptions, it should only be a guideline for whether you should purchase that construct at this stage in the game.

Analysis: Ascension One & Two rune cards

In our last segment in this series, we talked about the overall rune/power balance in Ascension: CotG:

In this segment, we’ll go into a bit more depth on the 1- and 2-rune cards in the set.

The cards are:

0 runes:
Apprentice* (add 1 rune, 0 honour) [factionless]
Militia* (add 1 power, 0 honour) [factionless]

1 rune:
Arha Initiate (draw one card, 1 honour) [Enlightened]
Lifeblood Initiate (add 1 rune and one honour, 1 honour) [Lifebound]
Mechana Initiate (add 1 rune OR 1 power, 1 honour) [Mechana]
Void Initiate (add 1 rune and may banish one card in hand or discard, 1 honour) [Void]

Starting with the 1-rune cards, reading, it says many things I’ve felt for a long time. The four cards here are not very balanced. I would even use stronger language, and say that the void initiate, if acquired early, can decide the game. I generally find that if I have two ‘banishing’ cards acquired early, I can winnow my deck down the just the essentials. This quickly becomes overpowering.

From a math perspective, one could assume the following (with no card drawing cards, assuming purchasing 1 card per hand):

No card banishing:
5,5 ->12 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, or 12 total)
5,5,2 ->14 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, or 14 total)
3,5,5,1 ->17 (3 completed turns, one carried over, ends with +3 cards, or 17 total)
4,5,5,3 ->20
2,5,5,5,3 ->24
2,5,5,5,5,2 ->29
3 (20 rounds)

With one card banisher in first two turns:
5,5 ->12 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, or 12 total)
5,5,2 -> 13 (2 completed turns ends with +2 cards, banish 1 card, for 13 total)
2,5,5,1 -> 15
4,5,5,1 -> 17
4,5,5,3 -> 19
1,5,5,5,4 -> 22
1,5,5 (20 rounds)

With two card banishers in first two turns:
5,5 ->12
5,5,2 ->12
2,5,5 ->13
5,5,3 ->13
2,5,5,1 ->14
4,5,5 ->16 (all Apprentices and Militia are banished now)
5,5,5,1 ->19
4,5 (20 rounds)

(Note that this may somewhat overstate the power of banishment cards, as we’re assuming perfect banishment, and being able to purchase two banishment cards in your first two turns. This has happened to me a number of times, though, so it’s not out of line as an assumption to make the math easier.)

So, with no banishment, you can get through your deck 6 times in 20 rounds. With one banishing card, you can get through it 6.5 times, which can be significant, as the later turns are much enriched in powerful cards, many of which can get you multiple honour points each. This strategy truly shines when you use two banishing cards, however. Note that your deck barely grows in size for the first half of the game. This allows you to go through your deck 7.5 times, being able to use your most powerful cards an extra time *each* more than even the one banishing card player.

With this in mind, barring further math, I’ll make the assumption that a banishing card is worth 1 extra rune for each turn you would have used the card it banished. (This assumes that you replace an apprentice with a mystic, which will probably overstate the banishment power in the early game, but understate it in the later game.)

This means that the Void Initiate gains you 1 + (5+4+3+2+1+0)runes/6** = 1 + 2.5 = 3.5 runes!
Assuming that you can always gain 1 honour (in cards) per two runes, this works out to 1 honour + 1.75 per play!
Working this in to the equations for the other 1-rune cards:

Void Initiate: 1 honour + 1.75 honour per play
Lifeblood Initiate: 1 honour + 1.5 honour per play***
Arha Initiate: 1 honour and -1 card
Mechana Initiate: 1 honour + 0.75 honour per play****

Now, on to the 2-rune cards.

2 runes:
Temple Librarian (discard one card and draw two cards, 1 honour) [Enlightened]
Seer of the Forked Path (draw one card and may banish a card in center row, one honour) [Enlightened]
Spike Vixen (draw one card and gain one power, 1 honour) [Void]

The two Enlightened cards here, in true ‘Blue’ fashion, are starting to show the control aspects of their faction. The Temple Librarian allows you to cycle your deck faster, and the Seer of the Forked path alternately allows you to swap out cards in the center row you don’t want for maybe one that you do, or even perhaps more useful, to get rid of a monster that your opponent will attack you with next turn!

I’ll cover these cards in more depth when I cover drawing cards in more general.

For now, remember that deck winnowing is powerful. My favourite corollary to this is from the board game ‘Age of Renaissance’:, which forces you to keep unplayable cards in your hand as an ‘unplayable misery burden’, which I think aptly describes low value cards in many deckbuilding games.

*I’m including Apprentice and Militia here for comparison for a couple of reasons. The most obvious is the correspondence with ‘Copper’ in Dominion. The second is that colourless cards in Magic: The Gathering are typically (slightly) less powerful than other cards at the same converted mana cost. Apprentice and Militia are listed as ‘0 runes’ because ‘Copper’ also costs 0, and it makes sense intuitively, but they might have slightly different actual ‘costs’, depending on how the math works out in later posts, when we work out how useful cards are, and give them fractional worth/benefit values.

**Yeah, I know. It’s not exact, and it doesn’t take into account the two-Void Initiate case.

***The high apparent value of this card under these assumptions suggests to me that the benefits of banishment are even higher than +1 rune each time a card that has been banished would have been played. Might be partially because +1 rune earlier is more important, as are runes >4-5 per turn…

****Assuming the flexibility is worth 0.5 runes per turn. In actuality, I’ve found that this card is seldom used, never mind used for its flexibility.

Analysis: Ascension Runes vs. Power

So, as you’re playing Ascension, you have a number of choices to make. One of the more important ones is how you balance your purchase of cards which give you runes vs. cards which give you power. (Myself, I enjoy the slower build and feeling of game mastery by playing a 120-point* game, so I tend to err on the side of runes.)

On first blush, it would seem that power would be the better (and simpler) strategy. You can purchase heavy infantry for two runes which will give you two power every time you draw them, vs. having to spend three runes for a Mystic which will give you a (seemingly) similar two runes.

There are more complex issues to get into, such as how each card you purchase affects your average draw and the histogram of your draws, but for now, we’ll focus on the list of cards in the first set, ‘Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer’.

Some people have very kindly made a list of all of the cards in this set, including the manufacturer:, and some people on

We’re going to start with some basic statistics about the cards in the deck:

There are a total of 100 cards, 18 in each of four ‘colours’, and 28 ‘monsters’.

Looking at the monsters first, there are:
– 10 monsters costing 3 power
– 8 monsters costing 4 power
– 6 monsters costing 5 power
– 3 monsters costing 6 power
– 1 monster costing 7 power

A simple test for the maximum effort you should put into cards which give you power is what is the maximum number of honour points you would expect to gain from that? You can always trade two power for one honour (cultist), but given that that is the default, you shouldn’t expect it to be the optimal move very often.

Assuming you go through the entire deck, and your opponent kills no monsters:
– 10 monsters costing 3 power give 1,1,1,1,1,1,1,2,2,2 honour, for a total of 13 honour
– 8 monsters costing 4 power give 3,3,3,3,4,4,4,4 honour, for a total of 28 honour
– 6 monsters costing 5 power give 3,3,3,5,5,5 honour, for a total of 24 honour
– 1 monster at 6, 1 monster at 7, for 3 and 4 honour, respectively, for a total of 7

So, that’s a total of 72 honour from center-row monsters, plus however many from cultists.

So that seems reasonable, 72 honour to compete with between you and your opponent. However, at the same time, you have to compete with the center row cards which cost runes:
– 12 cards costing 1 rune each
– 8 cards costing 2 runes each
– 13 cards costing 3 runes each
– 17 cards costing 4 runes each
– 11 cards costing 5 runes each
– 6 cards costing 6 runes each
– 4 cards costing 7 runes each
– 1 card costing 8 runes

And give you honour:
– 30 cards which give you 1 honour
– 20 cards which give you 2 honour
– 12 cards which give you 3 honour
– 4 cards which give you 4 honour
– 6 cards which give you 5,5,6,6,7,8 honour (all mechana constructs)

for a total of: 30+40+36+16+37 = 159 honour possible from purchasing center row cards.

So, including cultists (and a few other cards), you would expect to get twice as many honour points from rune-requiring cards as power-requiring cards.

This suggests to a first-order approximation, that you may be able to ignore power-requiring cards, but you very likely cannot ignore the rune-requiring cards.

Next time, we’ll discuss 1-rune and 2-rune cards!

*120 honour aquirable honour points at the start of the game. The standard game has 30 points per player, so for the two-player games I usually play, that would be 60 honour points. The game doesn’t end up twice as long, as the number of honour points you acquire per turn is closer to exponential than linear**.

**Don’t quote me on this, I have not mathed it out, yet.

Analysis: Ascension (and Dominion) Basics

Ascension is officially* my favourite modern** deck-building game (the genre started by Dominion).

The game was designed by a guy who had been a U.S. Magic: The Gathering champion, to try to capture more replayability by harnessing a quasi-drafting style of play.

This article is not about that. It is about the play balance of cards, and how you may be able to use math to help predict what works and what doesn’t.

It was in an article about Magic: The Gathering that I first heard about this, about ‘boons’, where the original designers came up with the idea of trading one mana (and a card) for three of something. Unfortunately, the 3 of somethings ended up being quite unbalanced, with respect to each other, so they ended up restricting or stopping the print run of most of them.

They had some more success with their ‘1 mana per attack/defense’ rule for creatures, with an ostensible balance with Fireball/Disintegrate, where you had to spend one mana per damage dealt.

Anyways, back to Ascension. You may recall from Dominion, the Fibonacci series for costs of Copper/Silver/Gold/Platinum:

Copper: cost 0 for 1 purchasing power
Silver: cost 3 for 2 purchasing power
Gold: cost 6 for 3 purchasing power
Platinum: cost 9 for 5 purchasing power

This works because in a normal length game, as your deck gets larger, you get about as much total purchasing power from each copper as you would from Gold:

Start of game: EEECCCCCCC -> (3.5/hand)
Turn 1,2 buy silver: EEECCCCCCCSS -> (4.58/hand)
Turn 3,4 buy silver: EEECCCCCCCSSSS -> (5.36/hand)
Turn 5,6,7 buy silver,gold,gold: EEECCCCCCCSSSSSGG -> (6.76/hand)
Turn 8,9,10 buy gold,gold: EEECCCCCCCSSSSSGGGG (7.25/hand)
Turn 11,12,13 buy gold,province,province: EEEPPCCCCCCCSSSSSGGGGG (6.95/hand)
Turn 14,15,16,17 buy duchy,duchy,province,province, ending the game (assuming 2 or 3 players).

Each copper is used ~6 times, silvers are used 5+5+4+4+3 = 21/5 = 4.2 times, making them worth ~8.4 each. Gold is used 3+3+2+2+1/5 = 11/5 = 2.2 times, making them worth ~6.6 each.

So, this shows:
1) The coins are approximately balanced
2) Early game silvers help more than other coins, assuming the game is as short as possible.

So, really back to Ascension now. Apprentices are the clear analogue to Copper, Mystics the clear analogue to Silver. I’m guessing they considered having an analogue to Gold either overpowering or boring, hence the fact that Landtalker only appears once in the deck in the standard set. (The higher cost and rune production cards in Ascension are quite interesting in that they get non-linear after a cost of 6 (perhaps to accommodate the 7 and 8 ‘automatically get or defeat something’ cards).)

That’s it for now!

*And unofficially…
**Magic: The Gathering is currently considered ‘old-school’, and also is a ‘collectible trading card game’.

Less Conventional 4-Quadrant Diagrams: The Horsemen of the Elements

So, 4-Quadrant diagrams are very common in the ‘make-something-two-dimensional-from-something-one-dimensional-and-name-it-after-yourself-and-sell-a-million-business-books’ field.

This series will cover some less commonly used 4-Quadrant diagrams.

First, the Elements:

  Gas   Condensed
|       |       |
| Fire  | Earth |  'Dry'
|       |       |
|       |       |
| Air   | Water |  'Wet'
|       |       |

Now for the Four Horsemen:

Activity Level:
 Human    Biological
|        |            |
| War    |Pestilence/ | Abundance
|        |Plague      |
|        |            |
| Death  | Famine     |  Lack
|        |            |

And as a special treat for those watching my Gold Box series:

 Includes     Does not
  'Pool'      include 
  in the     'Pool' in
  Title:     the Title:
| Pool     | Curse of   |
| of       | the Azure  | No Teleporters
| Radiance | Bonds      |
| Pools    | Secret of  |
| of       | the Silver | Teleporters! 
| Darkness | Blades     |

BOF V: “A Wolf in the Forest”

(This was my first experiment in creating a communal story, from Jan 5 to Jan 22/2013.)

(It’s interesting to look back on it, thinking “I thought of that?”.)

“You walk up to a wolf in the forest. It sits up on its haunches and looks at you. What do you do?”

I: “Good dog.”
Me: “The wolf looks at you askance, somehow implying with a glance that comparing it to a dog is somewhat similar to comparing a rocking horse to a racing stallion. What do you do?”
S: “Misunderstanding the somehow-implied metaphor, I draw a small saddle from my pack and hold it out to the wolf, awaiting further instruction.”
A: “I take Fat Neil’s cloak and sword and run into the forest.”
JW: “Can I make a diplomacy check?”
Me: “A: You reach the wolf, who now has two other people standing around it. You are carrying a wooden sword and a towel. What do you do?”
JS: “Run to grandma’s house.”
A: “I wrap the towel around myself and commence eating fish.”
Me: “JW: The wolf seems pleased to see you. It points its nose West, deeper into the forest. What do you do?”
Me: S: The wolf motions for you to turn around. What do you do?
Me: JS: You are now wearing a red cap. You approach a small forest cottage. What do you do?
JW: I pack up my equipment, leave a ration of venison on the ground in thanks to the wolf, and walk of to the west cautiously.
S: Saddle still in hand, I turn around, grumbling slightly about how good Alex’s lunch smells.
Me: A: You finish chewing your wooden sword in two. You now have two sticks, suitable for framing a two-dimensional picture, or perhaps propping up a small tent. What do you do?
Me: S: The wolf reaches around, deftly takes the saddle from your hands, and places it on your back. It then ties the buckle. It seems to want to get on. What do you do?
Me: JW: The wolf breaks the venison in two, eats half, and puts the other half in its pouch. It takes a piece of paper from its pouch, limps over to you, and hands it to as you walk away. As you are walking, you see paths off to the right and left. What do you do?
S: I glance around and declare, “Nay,” scuffing the ground with my boot to emphasize my lack of interest in this plan.
Me: S: The wolf limps over and looks at you sideways, in a pleading fashion. You also smell the delicious taste of venison. What do you do?
JW: I stop and look at both sides of the piece of paper.
PSL: I call out the game master for taking taste as subject to the olfactory sense.
Me: JW: One side has what appear to be coffee stains in the shape of a dolphin. The other side has what appears to be a map of the forest, with paths marked in two different colours. From your memory, you discern that you walked along one of the light green paths to reach the wolf. The path to your right leads to what looks like a cloud of warm colours, the path to the left leads to what appears to be jagged steel slashes. There are numerous dark green lines crisscrossing the paths. What do you do?
Me: PSL: Your character walks up to the nearest tree and smells the bark with his tongue. What do you do?
S: I crouch with a sigh and point at the saddle.
JW: I try to remember why I came to this forest in the first place.
Me: S: The wolf climbs on, straps itself in, and somehow conveys that it wants to go East. What do you do?
Me: J: You’re not sure. Sometimes you go into the forest to try to find the fabled contemplation glade, sometimes you go to hunt for food, sometimes to visit your friend the druid, sometimes just to explore. What do you do?
S: Again misunderstanding the wolf’s attempt at communication, I run in a circle and jump over a downed tree, then wait for my venison reward.
Me: S: The wolf softly nips at your left ear while at the same time tapping its left leg on your left side. What do you do?
S: I shriek, complain a little about unjust desserts, and start running in the direction the wolf indicated.
JW: I follow the path to the right, thanking the druid again.
Me: S: You find that as you start to run, your stride begins to lengthen, and your rum starts to feel more like a gallop. You move through the undergrowth, which seems to part for you, and come upon a large tree. The wolf motions for you to stop. What do you do?
Me: JW: You walk through the forest for a while, until you come to a small cottage. There is smoke coming out of the chimney, and delicious smells wafting from the open door. What do you do?
Jamie Wells I try to figure out what it I am smelling.
Me: JW: It smells like delicious baked cookies, along with a hint of mint. You catch a glimpse of red through the window. What do you do?
PSL: I gallop after S, because that seems to be where a narrative is beginning to develop.
JW: With baked cookies with a hint of mint being one of my favorite things, I can’t help but get drawn to the open foor, peak my head in, and say “Hello? May I please have some cookies?” (in whatever the common language happens to be in this forest).
Me: PSL: You crash through the underbrush and end up in a meadow. You see a woman with a wolf on her back looking at a large tree. What do you do?
Me: JW: Peering around the doorjamb, you see an older woman taking a baking pan out of the oven, and a younger woman wearing a red cap sitting at the table chopping mint. The older woman says “Of course!” The younger woman in the red cap says: “Would you like some fresh mint sprinkled on top? It’ll probably be the last for a while, so make sure you savour it!” What do you do?
PSL: I instagram.
Me: PSL: You focus your will, and a small weight appears out of thin air into your hand. What do you do?
S: I pull over, feeling strangely exposed, as if a bit of my soul has been stolen. I peer up at the tree, then back at the wolf.
PSL: I toss the weight at the thick of the tree overhead (or rather the next one over, I’m not *that* hopeless) and wait expectantly.
Me: S: Up the tree, you see a small human dwelling, wedged between the branches. The wolf motions to you and then up the tree with its snout. What do you do?
JS: Part of my brain questions the sanity of taking food from a stranger, however it is overridden by the “COOKIES!!!” portion of by brain. I gobble up three of them (with mint sprinkled on them).
Me: PSL: The weight transforms into a small rabbit and a watch in the air. They gently graze the next tree over and fall lightly to the ground. What do you do?
PSL: I tie the chain on the pocket watch to the rabbit and hold the watch as the leash handle. Then I enter the forest.
Me: JW: This is the MOST DELICIOUS MINT that you have ever tasted. The younger woman in the red says “I know, I’m never able to savour them, either.” “It’s too bad that with the forest going dark, we can’t get any more of that mint.” “Say, you wouldn’t be willing to do something for us, would you?” What do you do?
Me: PSL: You walk into the forest, with the rabbit happily hopping behind you. You feel a faint ticking in your hand each time the rabbit hops. You come to a clearing. There is a circle of mushrooms in the center, and numerous holes in the ground around the perimeter. What do you do?
PSL: I hurriedly pack my belongings and wonder why my office atop Robarts Library closes at five when Christmas seems weeks ago. Then I shrug and eat the first mushroom.
JW: I say “How may I help you?”.
Me: PSL: You successfully escape Robarts Library just before it wakes from its slumber. Huge stony concrete wings unfurl from behind, and two red circles of light appear near the top of the central tower. They seem to be intensifying. The mushroom tastes odd, as if it had been sprinkled with something. You feel the ground getting closer. You have a great desire to eat another one of the mushrooms. What do you do?
Me: JW: The older woman intones: “In the days before humans came to these woods, there was a great darkness that covered the land. It was fought off only through the great valour and sacrifice of a group of noble animals. A wolf, a bear, a rabbit, and a hawk. Their story fills many volumes, and we do not have time for it now. It has been said that the darkness can not encroach as long as they stand vigilant, but they are injured and scattered. We have not heard from any save the wolf in weeks. If you can clear a small path to the mint, and retrieve some, along with the fireweed that grows there, we can perform a divination to figure out the next task.” What do you do?
PSL: I eat another mushroom.
KMV: Suggest it might look good as a grandmother.
CH: Thinks you all have made too many assumptions. *YOU* are obviously a bitch, and a HOT one at that. You and the wolf make passionate love under the full moon, howling in paroxysmal, delight, tearing into one another as clumps of fur lay strewn across the freshly fallen snow. . . [excerpt from Fifty shades of the Grey Wolf]
RG: I cast Animal friendship or Charm animal depending on the edition we playing.
MC: don’t walk up to a wolf in the forest unless you are a wolf. If you are a wolf then smell the wolf’s butt.
Me: PSL: You see the ground come up at you *really* quickly. You feel the rabbit pulling you away from the mushroom ring towards one of the holes around the clearing. What do you do?
Me: KMV: You see the wolf make the ASL for ‘red’, somehow. It points with its snout down one of the forest paths. What do you do?
Me: CH: You wake up from a very strange dream and find yourself on a strangely computer science-based Jeopardy show. You hear the words: “50 shaders of grey for 100, Alex.” What do you do?
JW: I say “Just show me where to go, and I shall complete this task”.
Me: RG: You cast ‘charm animal’ on the wolf. The wolf seems to shimmer as if something passed through it. Its tongue lolls out as if it is sharing a joke with you. What do you do?
Me: MC: The wolf speaks to you in Wolf: “Praytell, would you join me in a quest to push back the darkness? We must first find my companions, to assist us in the many tasks ahead.” What do you do?
Me: CE: The wolf looks at you as if it was sitting at home, drinking an import. What do you do?
Me: JW: The woman asks you to open your map, and points out one of the dark green lines which ends in a circle of green wavy lines with flames in the center. “You must follow this path to the mint grove. We do not know how far the darkness has spread. You must focus sunlight to clear a path. Take these two sugar crystals. They should focus the light enough to clear a path.” What do you do?
JW: I take the sugar crystals and take the path the woman indicated on the map down to the mint grove. On the way out, I snag a couple of more cookies and leave 5 silver coins in payment.
PSL I stick my arm up the first hole up to the shoulder.
Me: JW: On your way out, the woman runs after you and hands you back your silver coins. “You’ll want these to help reflect and focus the sunlight!” “Enjoy the cookies! If you need a brief insight later, try eating them!” You wonder why she always speaks with exclamation marks, but you continue on. Going down the path, you reach the point where the path goes from light green to dark green. The Dark green path seems to be a small path through the underbrush. You crawl along the path. After going a short ways into the underbrush, you sense more than see a dark cloud up ahead. What do you do?
Me: PSL: As you reach down to the hole, you realize that the hole has gotten bigger, and is about the same size as you. At approximately the same time, you realize that the rabbit has gotten much larger and is pulling you into the hole. You fall over, and are rolling down the hole after the rabbit. What do you do?
JW: I set up the sugar crystals in a resonating cavity, reflect sunlight into the cavity using a silver coin, and aim the output beam into the cloud (ie. I shoot the beam of light into the darkness).
WYC: You deal them a hand of cards, and play go fish with them.
Me: JW: The sun shines into the cavity, and is somehow focused and *changed*. The beam slashes into the dark cloud, exploding it into shards in a straight line in front of you. You can now see a brightly lit path to a meadow. What do you do?
Me: WYC: The wolf motions you over to a magical pond with fish frolicking inside. There are slots on the side of the lake for cards. Looking at your cards, you see that they now each have a number of fish on them. The wolf asks if you have any kipper. Looking at your cards, you do not. What do you do?
GW: I sit down and look back at it
PSL: I reach out for a protruding root and manage to bring my descent to a halt.
YG: I cast Magic Missile into the darkness.
EG: Smile and say hello.
JW: Into the meadow I go!
LMH: Sounds like time for a makeout session…
PSL:Also, I throw up my mushrooms.
Me: GW: The wolf looks back at you. You see it motion towards the ground. You see something glinting there. What do you do?
Me: PSL: You successfully slow your descent, but the rabbit is too large and pulling you too fast for you to fully stop until you reach the end of the hole. It opens into a large underground room. There are four exits: the way you came in, which looks like a daunting climb, a passageway to the left, which seems to have a flickering light, a passageway straightforward, which the rabbit seems to be pulling you towards, and a passageway to the right, which smells faintly swampy. What do you do?
PSL: Go right.
Me: YG: You make a small temporary hole in the dark cloud, and a few shards break off and fall to the ground. You feel like you might need something larger. There are dark shards on the ground. What do you do?
DL: I call the midwife who tells me to chill out. I look at facebook. I double check the snack bag. I look at facebook again.
GW: I walk over and examine what is glinting on the ground.
Me: EG: The wolf swishes its tail as if to say hello. It points its nose towards a tree. You see something sparkling in a hole in the tree about 10 feet up. What do you do?
Me: JW: You enter the meadow. Bursting out of the brush, you see that the brightly lit path extends into the meadow. You see a large cluster of herbs growing in the center of the clearing. The green cluster seems to be moving. You feel more than see the dark cloud around you starting to fluctuate. What do you do?
Me: LMH: The wolf licks your face repeatedly. It seems to like you. What do you do?
Me: PSL: You throw the extra mushrooms you were carrying up in the air and catch them. Nothing seems to happen. You start down the right passageway. The rabbit seems to be pulling you back the way you came, and eventually pulls away from you and waits at the end of the tunnel, back at the four-way room. The tunnel starts to glow green as you continue. A miasma starts to fill the air. You reach an underground grotto with glowing green moss covering the walls, and a small pond. What do you do?
Me: DL: The Wolf pads over and sits down, trying to distract you to help you relax. It pulls a vole out of your snack bag and chews contentedly in companionable silence. What do you do?
Me: GW: It seems to be a ring. Picking it up, it has a picture of a wolf on it. What do you do?
PSL: Eat moss.
LMH: Begin excreting toxins through my sebaceous glands…
GW: I look the ring over and try it on. Unfortunately it is too big to fit on any of my fingers, so I offer it to the wolf.
EG: I attempt to climb the tree but the first branch is too high for me to reach. After a few painful jumps, I collapse against the tree and fall asleep.
JW: I pick some of the mint, then eat one of the cookies to get some insight on where I might find the fireweed.
BSG: I wander into the mint meadow and am surprised to find someone already there picking mint.