Venture to the Bane

We played Venture by Riley Rethal this week, as a group of adventurers commissioned by the royal family to rescue the Prince, lost in the haunted forest. We are well-known in the kingdom for our skill, honor, and (most of us) loyalty: Sebastian the honorable Paladin, Topaz the scavenging Rogue, Dalavarr the weather Wizard, Aloisius the doubting Cleric, and Claresta the impulsive Fighter.

Our adventure begins being called to the palace and taken to a hidden royal garden to meet the Lord Chancellor who explains that our mission is delicate and must be kept secret, but the Prince was lost recently on a hunting mission, pulled into the haunted forest and did not emerge. All fear that the Bane has taken him and recall what we’ve heard of the creature: its rows of razor sharp teeth, that it is a cursed human, that it guards the forest, that it is intelligent, and that it prefers to be left alone. We ride for the point where the Prince was lost. On the road, Topaz decides to unload some items she picked up at the palace: a pair of chainmail gloves that Sebastian accepts without asking their provenance, but Claresta rejects the steel dagger with the runes because it’s too puny a weapon. Sebastian takes a quiet moment to ask Aloisius why the cleric does not trust him. Aloisius explains that the fervor and breadth of the paladin’s faith are disconcerting to him, who has never felt such divine passion, but trusts that he will do his duty.

At last we enter the forest, but we keep finding ourselves emerging back where we started. Dalavarr attempts to conjure a wind to dispel the forest fog, but first the fog envelopes us and as it clears, we find ourselves in a market, populated by fae folk. Dalavarr warns us of the dangers of bargains with the fae, but we find ourselves the object of much attention. One goblin is amused by us and approaches to offer help to the strangers out of place. Learning we seek the Bane, he laughed at us for thinking we could find the what we seek when entering the Bane’s forest, and suggests we return with the intention to fill this bag he hands us with forest bark, which he trades us for a lock of Dalavarr’s half-elven hair.

Taking the goblin’s advice, we return to the forest seeking bark but find, instead, a line of mushrooms marching through the forest. Topaz purloins one and returns to the group, but the mushroom taunts us relentlessly until we give up on them leading us anywhere. After catching up with the other mushrooms, we’re able to trade showing us the bark near the Bane’s home in exchange for creating a new damp place for the mushroom’s home. Topaz sneaks up to the Bane’s window and sees the creature sitting together at a table with the Prince. Sebastian takes the lead and calls out to the Bane, who is suspicious but eventually lets us into the house. The Bane tells us that he will not release his companion and that we must go, but Sebastian volunteers to stay in the Prince’s place. We all agree to come back to visit regularly, so the Bane agrees to release the Prince. We agree to return at least every fortnight, and we bring oxen as a gift.

In the epilogue, Claresta asks the Prince if he can summon woodland creatures to do his chores (No.) while Topaz ponders how to use the royal boon that she’s earned. Dalavarr, having a long-time secret crush on the Prince, spends much of the trip back talking and getting to know the young man. And the Prince agrees to keep the Bane and the pact secret. Once we’ve filled the goblin’s sack, it disappears to return to the fairy realms.

Epitaph for a Bartender

Tonight we played Epitaph by Marc Hobbs, a new game in which you explore the life of a character you create together.


A bartender named Mason never leaves the contemporary Midwestern city he is born into. He dreams of writing a book of the definitive and original drinks he mixes throughout his career. Mason, unlike most, sees and recognizes the fae folk who live among humanity for what they truly are.

Epitaph cover courtesy of Less Than Three Games.


Born 1933 in Traverse City, MI

Age 18 (1951)

Mason graduating from high school and saying goodbye to Opal.

  • Snapshot: Mason hugging Opal in their graduation gowns, saying goodbye as she goes to college and he prepares for the Korean War draft.
  • Reflection: Feels great nostalgia for Opal but wishes things had ended better.

Age 18 (1951)

Closing up the bar by himself for the first time (a few months after graduation).

  • Snapshot: Mason is standing in the dark bar with all the chairs and stools on top of the tables looking into a glowing hole in the wall, which houses a miniature bar. Two sprites with wings are serving drinks to other fairy folk inside.
  • Reflection: Feels privileged to have gotten to witness that moment and the fairy folk. He’s grateful to not be one who overlooks things.

Age 19 (1952)

Mason’s first encounter with Fenwick the selkie.

  • Snapshot: Shorter person in an oversized cloak with hood sitting at the bar smiling while waiting for Mason to serve him. Mason is wearing a puzzled expression on his face.
  • Reflection: Finds it amusing how clueless and skeptical of Fenwick he was initially.

Age 28 (1961)

First time Mason met Bethany.

  • Snapshot: Mason and Bethany at the bar on his birthday with streamers and balloons in the background, with Mason leaning over the bar talking to Bethany, who is smiling but not into him. Mason falls for that smile.
  • Reflection: Mason loves this memory; it makes him happy.

Age 35 (1968)

Mason serving a new drink inspired by a faun to a human (hairy hoof).

  • Scene: Local boy tries the drink after insisting that Mason remake it so that it uses only locally sourced or other non-exploitative ingredients. He really likes it and says he’ll bring his friends.
  • Reflection: Mason is extremely proud of his accomplishment to create this new drink, but feels guilty about not trusting the fae when they suggested the drinks.

Age 40 (1973)

Mason and Bethany’s long-delayed wedding.

  • Remembrance: Bethany remembers how long they had waited and their two children (age 6 and 3) in attendance. She feels their love will endure, and was so grateful to have her children in attendance. She remembers falling for him slowly due to his good humor and soft laughter, and how he was always there for her.

Age 43 (1976)

Mason starting to write his book.

  • Snapshot: Mason sitting at his kitchen/dining table with a toddler at his feet, a 6-year old sitting with him, and a 9-year old walking by. Mason is writing out the recipe for an old-fashioned that he believes he has at last perfected and deciding to write a book of his drink recipes.
  • Reflection: Mason sees this as the best decision he ever made.

Age 57 (1990)

Mason and Fenwick arguing over a drink recipe.

  • Scene: Fenwick claims that a Pale Sea Water needs more sea grapes, but Mason realizes that he served Fenwick a Manhattan by mistake. A young professional walks up to the bar and orders two Manhattans, ignoring the dispute between the two.
  • Reflection: Mason remembers with fondness the friendship of the selkie, even if his certainty and stubbornness were frequently frustrating.

Age 70 (2003)

Wake for bar’s previous owner who had sold the bar to Mason ages ago.

  • Snapshot: Mason sitting surrounded by his family including his new grandchild in his daughter’s arms and the many people who know him or his predecessor. People are raising glasses and hugging and consoling one another as they gather in an irregular semicircle around the bar with Mason at the center.
  • Reflection: Mason feels contentment when thinking about this event, when so many wonderful friends came together to remember someone who meant so much to them all.

Died 2017 in Traverse City, MI (Age 84)


  • To honor Mason, the Sprites who work in the weefolk bar-within-a-bar paint the signature inlaid in the glasses his unique drinks are served in so the signature actively shimmers like phosphorus and the signature never fades.
  • His children pull together all his various drink notes and recipes into a proper book that is printed as well as a hand-bound version that preserves his original papers that they keep at the bar.

Angel Tourism Street Magic

This week, we played I’m Sorry Did You Say Street Magic by Caro Asercion and created a grand, ornate, sprawling city that serves as the center of a great world religion but now sees more tourists than believers.

Downtown is the center of town where there is more shopping than cathedrals, but the roads are made of decorative colored bricks in patterns that come together at the very center into a central mosaic, the Angel Mural. All roads lead to Mural Square, but the origins of the mosaic are lost to the annals of time. Nearby is Hotel Row, a strip that caters to the many tourists who visit the city, famed for its nighttime amphitheater that’s hidden from the street view by the many hotels where laser light shows originate. Elsewhere in Downtown is Stenlake Art Museum full of modern art works and an arboretum, and Sten Lake itself, surrounded by a park with duck-shaped paddle boats for tourists to ride.

A crane waits at a bus stop overrun with water.
Image courtesy of Caro Asercion.

Working your way up from Sten Lake and Downtown, you come to the Holies, the neighborhood where the most temples and the offices of the faith’s hierarchy reside. Opalescent spires climb up the hills until you come to the Crystal Palace at the crest of the great hill, an animal sanctuary characterized by lush foliage, a sun-warmed, dense jungle right inside the city. At the bottom of the hill, closest to Downtown is where the Night Service is held 24 hours a day, providing unceasing ritual and regularity to the working people of the city, who come to visit it regularly as a right of passage. On the far side of the great hill lies Dry Bones Cemetery, which is creepy and largely deserted by the living. Its cobblestone paths and gnarled bare trees lead to the Heaven-bound Mausoleum, a massive crypt built centuries ago which leads underground into the heart of the hill, full of unlit torches and seemingly endless coffins. The Ghost Guide tries to keep the stories of the crypt and the cemetery alive, but the murder of crows who roost in the graveyard see themselves as the true protectors of the tomb and drive off those who become too curious.

Around the other side of Downtown lies the University District, which is large and friendly, full of cafes and restaurants and Art Deco university office buildings. The heart of the District is University Library with eagle statues atop its steel and mirrored glass facade. Next door to that is the Robert Burns Memorial Hedge Maze, constructed of varying shrubbery of multiple colors with an angel statue at the center. The most popular place in the District is the Fox Den, an open air asian bistro with the most famous foods and cherry blossom trees growing between the tables. The Burrow is the Den’s basement after-hours club with colored lights and 80s night, where the bartenders and DJs entertain into the wee hours. Cyrus the Aussie bartender is a notable standout and can always hook you up if you need a guy.

Three events punctuated our evening of play. The Angel Festival downtown brings in lots of tourist dollars to the city’s economy, even if they can be destructive and leave a mess. Sten Lake is the venue for an outdoor fundraiser to maintain the Crystal Palace, but it creates tension as the Holies resents that such events must be held Downtown. And the University holds regular Midnight Madness Movie nights at Dry Bones Cemetery, but such a widespread event is loud enough to wake the dead. Will it?

Power & Grace & Demons

This week we played Power & Grace the super heroic Lasers & Feelings hack by an unknown author (let us know if you know the creator). We are the Silver Guardians, a well-financed group of superheroes operating from our hidden island base who are always dealing with our overlarge rogues gallery. One of our number—Moonwind the alien acrobat—is missing for this adventure, but our newest member, Bolt the eager speedster, is available for her first adventure with the team. The series regulars who appear this time are: the Electric Shepherd, the arrogant controller of technology who believes the chips in his brain make him better than humanity; Heavy Metal the wisecracking cybernetic brawler from the future; and Glacier, a 7-foot tall ice spirit sent to protect the Earth bonded to a human being.

Our story begins with Electric Shepherd luring Glacier to a public park and convincing him to create multiple ice sculptures of her when a portal opens near a group of playing children, a portal showing a winged demon with a scorpion tail in another dimension. Shepherd tosses a phone into the demons mouth, which causes an explosion that starts a fire that endangers the children, but Glacier quells the flame with sheets of ice. Later, back at our base, Glacier and Shepherd reveal that they discovered magical cards from a game the kids were playing that must have opened the portal, and teenage Bolt explains that the cards are from a collectible card game called Demon Wars that kids all over are playing. The group decides to approach the creator of the game Dustin Kamil, so Bolt poses as a young fan to lure him into a park where we can question him without alarming the public. Before we can begin, however, he unfurls additional cards which summon a large creature that is the combination of a dragon, a squid, and a parrot. As we’re fighting the creature, Dustin attempts running away but is easily caught by Bolt, and the rest of the crew take out the creature through a combination of electrical overloads delivered through Glacier’s ice by Shepherd and a haymaker from Heavy Metal.

During questioning, Dustin mentions Dr. Arcane, which leads to the group investigating their old mystical foe and uncovering his plot to use this CCG to weaken the wall separating our world from a demonic realm to summon the dreaded beast, Ghraiodrih, which saps the will to enable him to enslave the whole country. Our research makes it clear that to summon the beast, he’ll need to cast a specific spell at Stonehenge, so we race there to stop him. Upon arrival, we learn he’s brought much of our rogues gallery with him, including the gelatinous Ooze, the unpredictable Wacky Arsonist, the megalomaniacal cat-man Leonine, and the Poison Child who drips with venom. But having fought these so many times before, we go to work taking each one out: Heavy Metal slams Leonine with a massive stone, Glacier freezes Ooze in place (although a small portion melts away into a nearby drain), the Arsonist is put to sleep by the gas from Shepherd’s drones, and Bolt brings down Dr. Arcane and the Child as they attempt to fly away using a mini-cyclone. Their scheme thwarted, we hand the villains over to the authorities and set about to clean up the Demon Wars game first by buying the company and replacing all the existing cursed cards with mundane facsimiles.

Gas Mining Archipelago

We played Archipelago by Matthijs Holter in a fascinating futuristic world where orbs and bubbles are the primary building blocks of society, a gas mining colony sent from Earth into the atmosphere of one of the outer planets. We live in a floating city above the surface, with tubes descending from the Steamworks into the atmosphere to collect rare gases needed back on Earth, a Food Lab where instant food pellets are manufactured, where the weather is manufactured and projected onto our bubble skies by weather control companies like BluSky, and a giant magnetic Accelerator is used to send our mined gasses toward Earth for pickup and collection. We are Jon Ronny, a food scientist at Food Lab tasked with finding new flavors; Sorter 5, an autonomous bot at the Steamworks who maintains a fan wiki about weather art; Zayre, the best gunner working at the Accelerator; and Quain, a renowned weather artist at BluSky who lives across the hall from Jon Ronny.

Our story begins with Sorter 5 making a routine drop-off of argon bubbles at the Accelerator for Zayre to fire off toward Earth in which Sorter 5 learns about a micro-weather concert soon to be held in the Plaza. After having gotten his new-flavor marching orders, Jon Ronny seeks ideas by exchanging messages with the administrator of the weather wiki and gets the Arthur theme song and images of weather and food as inspiration. Later Quain visits Jon while the chemist is busy in the kitchen concocting his latest food, chocolemon bars, and learns that Quain was inspired by the weather of his archival, Kaze. In the final scene of Act I, Zayre is approached by a pair of bumbling interns who have inadvertently sent a bubble of precious gas hurtling off-course. Zayre performs a series of mental calculations and uses a pair of empty bubbles to correct the course through a series of bank shots like a set of billiard balls in space.

As Act II begins, Jon Ronny tries pitches his new chocolemon bars to suits at the Food Lab, but they get lost in marketing ideas and separating the flavors, or making them diet, so he walks away to start his own independent food pill company called Better Pills to showcase his new flavors. After learning that the Steamworks will be replacing their generation of sorter with the latest generation, Sorter 5 is introduced to Dr. Moneybags, who wants to buy the robot to place in his collection as a fine example of their beautiful and stylish generation of bots, and getting paid to be admired seems like a good idea to them, at least as long as reasonable work hours can be negotiated. After Raze comes to work for BluSky, Quain and Raze are brought into HR to discuss the mess their making of the skies by competing with each other, and the way their animosity is poisoning the atmosphere at the office. To save their jobs, they each agree to make pleasing skies and refrain from backbiting at work. Meanwhile, Zayre receives a job offer to help develop Accelerator-powered human space travel, and has a long talk with her mother before deciding to take a chance and move to Earth for the role.

This Brain Within Me Burns

This week we played This Heart Within Me Burns by Sam Dunnewold from the StorySynth Gallery in which we play a troupe of adventurers who travel to the House of the Empty Goddess seeking to have a curse removed from one of our number. We are Imogene the fire-eating acrobat, Sigurd the unbathed Ratcatcher, Wes the orphaned Smith, Aramis the half-elven Minstrel, Wyn Stormborn the merchant turned Priest, and the curse-afflicted Jessica the Ranger. The curse has ransacked Jessica’s perception, leaving her face blind, but the condition is worsening as she forgets not only faces but common words, and perhaps eventually much more.

We’re traveling through rocky, scrubby hills during the humid months toward the House of the Empty Goddess. Few venture through this desolation, but Jessica fares well for she spent months in the Temple of the Silent One five years ago, so the curse has yet to isolate her. Imogene recalls the child Martina, who lived at the same boardinghouse she did before leaving for adventure, and the promises she made to return. Sigurd secretly blames himself for the curse upon Jessica, believing that when he abandoned his post as ratcatcher out of pique at city officials, the creatures have spread this curse wide. Wes is the first to notice when Jessica fails to recognize everyday objects, calling a spoon a sword, and confides his worries in Wyn. Aramis hopes this curse will teach us all a lesson about the dangers of arrogance and entitlement; we need some humbling, he thinks.

Imogene the acrobat balances a candle on top of a ball on top of her knees. In the background, another image of Imogene touching her foot to her head.

Wyn is at a loss, unable to use his magics to minister to us, he must learn to exercise compassion despite his faith not valuing such softness. When we stop in a small town, Imogene cooks a crème brûlée for a weary traveller but is haunted by his exclamation about the dangers of fire. Sigurd is wracked with guilt over his belief that he caused this plague that has swept up his comrade. Aramis, taking one for the team, entreats Sigurd to take a bath, but the ratcatcher remains unbathed. Wes remembers when he almost lost Wyn when the mountain trolls attacked and worries now about losing Jessica. Unbeknownst to us, Jessica knows whence the curse came, for tis the same calamity that befell her father after an angry client vowed that her father and all his line would suffer before he too began to forget faces, then objects, people, then everything.

The entire group becomes increasingly worried about Jessica, except perhaps Sigurd who is blinded by guilt and regrets ever leaving his work to go adventuring. Imogene has stopped using fire around Jessica, fearing that she might grab a flaming candle thinking it a comb or axe. Aramis regrets never having confessed his love to Jessica before it was too late. One morning, as the group is breaking camp, we discover that Jessica has scattered our items about the site in a crude circle, believing that Sigurd’s shoe and other items are swords, so Wyn walks Jessica into the trees to allow the group to complete the packing without her seeing the mistakes she has made. Wes used to celebrate each of our victories with a commemorative sword, but can’t imagine what to make for this adventure. Jessica feels that our bringing the Queen of Silence to mediate in the Elven-Dwarven War was worth it, despite her returning accursed, because it did some actual good in the world.

As we approach the House of the Empty Goddess, we’re each alone with our thoughts and our fears: that it will all be for naught, that we’ll have to trick the Goddess to help, that the Goddess is a myth and can offer nothing, that Jessica will worsen. In the temple, the priestess places Jessica inside an iron casket and asks us each to make a sacrifice to our Lady. If she deem the sacrifices worthy, then the curse will be lifted. Wes gives up his finest sword, Sigurd sacrifices his honor and agrees to bathe at last, Imogene sacrifices the candle she’s promised Martina, Wyn will retire to a monastery and make sacrifices to his god and to the Goddess daily, and Aramis will sacrifice his quest to master magic. Jessica explains about the family curse and agrees to give up her quest to become legendary if the curse is lifted. As we leave the temple, Jessica seemingly restored, Aramis begins to sing the love song he wrote for Jessica and the credits roll as the song continues to play.

Truth & Daring about Aliens

This week we played Truth & Daring by Tim & Kristin Devine of Dice Up Games as an alien-obsessed all-girl club called the Little Green Meenies whose clubhouse is an old shack at the entrance to an abandoned mine outside a small desert town in the American Southwest of the 1980s. We are Marley Davis, a tomboyish bookworm seeking to top the local library’s summer reading board; Janie Stone, the new kid who just wants to be helpful and make friends; Dena Gertler, an explorer with various home-made gadgets who wants to use this summer to finish mapping the abandoned mine; and Flair Cooper, who sneakily collects samples of hair from everyone she can for use in making Victorian hair art.

Victorian Hair Wreath photo found on National Geographic.

Our story begins with Janie’s arrival in town, with all the neighborhood children coming by to see the new family and help out with unloading, but we quickly get distracted by Janie’s comic books. After much discussion, Janie agrees to let Flair take a sample of her hair to prove that she’s not an alien so she can join the club. A few weeks later, we’re all hanging out at the clubhouse when Marley comes in breathless, having overheard a group of men in the library discussing smuggling alien tech from the military base through our mine, and the group agrees to search the North fork that run closest to the base. In the tunnel, we spend a lot of time talking about our fears (the dark? spiders? lobsters?) until we come across the criminals discussing their plans in more detail, taking uniforms and ID cards from their inside contact, and the plan to move “the stones” through the mine until they can configure them to open the portal.

Back at Janie’s house, we marvel at how awesome her room is with a mini-fridge, tons of comics, a television and VCR; she must be well-loved, probably because she was sick when younger, leading her parents to indulge her. After abandoning trying to collapse or flood the mines, we realize the only way we can stop the criminals is by getting the police involved, but know they’ll need more than our word for it. We return to the North fork and Flair slips out to take a hair sample from one of the criminals but is caught by them carrying one of our walkie-talkies with the mic taped open. The rest of us run to the police to tell them about Flair being kidnapped and use the sounds coming from the walkie-talkie to convince them this isn’t a prank. We lead the police into the mine tunnels and catch up with the criminals returning with the stolen “stones” and Flair tied up in the corner. The police make the necessary arrests and we see the military arrive to take over the investigation as we’re driven away by one of the deputies.

In epilogue, we see Flair getting a job at the local beauty salon cleaning up, which aids her in her collection activity. Marley easily wins the library’s contest as she spends the rest of the summer researching the alien “stones” and takes home a big alien poster as her prize. Janie gets a new game system and she and Flair get close after Flair uses her salon money to buy some fun games and spends lots of time over at Janie’s house. Dena spends most of the summer taking long hikes on the mesas outside of town since the mines are off-limits as a crime scene.

Galactic: Save the Galaxy

This week we played Galactic 2.0 by Riley Rethal as a group of spies working for the Liberation against the authoritarian Mandate in a galaxy some distance away. We mostly followed the plot guide created recently by Randy Lubin. We are ace pilot Jacob Quam of the bird-like Qaddin race, double-agent Luna Moonglow who we think is now on our side, Theta a diplomat with a droid companion known as AWK-3, an astrablade-wielding Nova named Juroden Nightflame who has yet to find his destiny, and con artist and inveterate gambler Bolma Anluso.

Galactic cover showing a ragtag group of misfit rebels with planets and stars in the sky behind them.

Our story begins when Jacob Quam arrives with a message from the Liberation that we need to make our way to the ancient Nova city of Tusinda, but it takes some time for him to convince us he’s legit. Luna Moonglow is also concerned with proving her trustworthiness and brings us information about the Mandate’s powerful new mega-weapon to prove her loyalty. She knows that the device is in a heptahedron configuration and connected to the excavation going on at Tusinda. Theta’s ex-lover is an archeologue working at the dig, but before we blast off to investigate, Bolma meets with Forn Wie, one of her underworld contacts, and learns that the weapon plans are kept in the palace on Tusinda. As we hurtle through hyperspace on Jacob’s ship The Star Cracker, we learn that Tusinda is now a modern city built atop the ruins of an ancient Nova Temple that is being excavated by Mandate archeologues in search of some as-yet unknown ancient Nova artifact.

Once we arrive, the group splits up with Bolma, Luna, and Theta racing to the regent’s palace to obtain the weapon plans and Juroden heading to the dig site to find the artifact before the Mandate does. Jacob Quam can’t be enticed to help without further payment, so we leave him with the ship where he is visited by Binn Hobb, his arch-rival, who mercilessly mocks Jacob’s ship and hygiene until letting slip about the great treasure believed to be hidden in the Nova Temple. When we enter the palace, Bolma is sent to intercept Triga, Theta’s ex, and after much discussion gains her trust to learn that the temple’s ancient meditation chambers contain unique meditation crystals that, when configured correctly, can power the mega-weapon but that the archeologues can’t seem to find the chamber with the key crystal. Meanwhile at the temple, Jacob has caught up to Juroden and together they stumble into the secret meditation chamber through luck and intuition. Juroden takes the sacred crystals while Jacob hauls away the mundane treasures for sale on the black market. Back in the palace, Luna and Theta infiltrate the room with the weapon plans and steal them.

Once we regroup and realize the Mandate’s plan, we decide to change the key crystal on the plans and leave our counterfeit crystal where Triga and the Mandate can find it. Once they construct their new weapon with our replacement key, the crystals will compress the Space Between rather than expel it, causing the weapon to implode and ending the Mandate threat … for now.

Mage Against AI

We took another journey into Mage Against the Machine by Jordan Palmer in which we play a group of time-traveling wizards seeking to undo the AI apocalypse that destroyed our world. We are Galen who fondly remembers the familial love of meals at her grandmother’s house and the elation of casting her first spell to reverse time, Arabella with memories of first kissing her girlfriend Olivier and winning the robotics competition in high school, Draco who won a spell-casting competition and graduated from Wizarding College, Quill who created sleep magic and slept through history to emerge into our apocalypse, Gwendolyn who loved her fishing village home and her understanding parents, and 99 who remembers his twelfth birthday and being saved from a rogue AI drone.

Our retracing of history begins by visiting 99’s birthday party when he received an AI tutoring tablet that led to his becoming friends with a tech-kid named Gary. In order to stop Gary from learning about AI from this tablet, Galen twists time so the two boys never meet. Our next stop is when the AI controlled tide modulation machines were installed at the beach in Gwendolyn’s village. Arabella tries to dim the AI’s intelligence but Quill must make the machine hydrophobic before we succeed in blocking the apocalypses advance at this moment. Draco remembers graduating with Sol Shadowend as his class’s valedictorian before becoming a leader in the development of AI. Gwendolyn casts a spell to make them roommates hoping that will slow Sol academically, but Galen realizes that it’s the connection to the famous visiting wizard that leads to Sol’s place in history so casts a spell to switch the wizard’s affections to the salutatorian. Galen remembers a particular family meal when the government announced their advanced AI drone program was, but 99 casts a spell that makes the public especially scared of this development, leading to protests that undermine the program.

Long-haired woman in a witch's hat and the same woman on the other side asleep on a pillow with crescent moons on it.

Arabella remembers when her girlfriend bought her an AI pet that she momentarily lost at a lake, which created glitches in its programming that changed the development of AI consciousness. Draco casts a spell to make the lake deeper so the pet is lost forever and never recovers. We return next to when Gwendolyn’s parents disappeared after the AI manufacturer introduced more changes to the fishing village, but Quill casts a spell that brings the community together for every meal, making it so that her parents are never alone and so impossible to simply disappear. At the spell-casting competition that Draco won, one contestant is disqualified for using an AI-enhanced wand, but Gwendolyn casts a spell that relaxes the contestant so they are never tempted to cheat in the first place. We return to Quill’s memory of emerging from her time-sleep and dreaming of robots to better understand this new world she’d emerged in, a dream that created a new kind of robot. Gwendolyn tries to prevent Quill from sleeping but Quill is a powerful sleeper, so Galen casts a spell to eject the sweeping robot out of her dreams, but again the sleep is too deep. Arabella casts a spell to destroy the robot before it goes into the dream, but dream stuff can be made from anything, so Draco casts a spell to ensure the robot’s experience in the dream is short-lived enough that it doesn’t gain insight into the infinite possibilities of the dream world. Finally, to prevent the sweeping robot from becoming sentient on the day Arabella won the robotics competition, Quill creates a solar flare that disrupts the global AI network so the sentient machine’s newfound consciousness cannot be uploaded into the AI collective.

Once we return to our own time, we realize that almost all of our memories have been inverted by our manipulations of the timestream. 99’s birthday party becomes a memory of grief, Gwendolyn’s memories of the ocean turn resentful, Draco’s graduation from college becomes despair as he grows jealous, Galen’s family meals become oppressive from so many expectations and so little privacy, Arabella’s memories of her girlfriend become filled with anger as they fight after the loss of the AI pet, Gwendolyn grows bitter toward her parents as they expect more and more of her, and Arabella becomes ashamed to have ever used AI tech in the first place. One memory disappears as Draco never won the spell-casting competition, and one memory remains exactly as it was: Quill’s memory of emerging from her long slumber and dreaming her way to knowledge of our world.

Another Querulous Dram

This week we played The Wizard’s Querulous Dram by Lizzie Stark and Jason Morningstar a second time, playing wizards who meet via scrying devices to choose which of the heirs from two neighboring kingdoms will marry to form one larger kingdom. Once again the choice was too easy and obvious for us, so before we play again, we need to change the descriptions of the four possible heirs to create more controversy. This time our negotiations between the small kingdoms of Black Mountain and Smallwood is presided over by Dobra the Mysterious, a swamp witch whose being blackmailed by Prince Winthrop and is most concerned with plentiful issue from the royal pairing (you can’t eat royal babies if their aren’t any royal babies). Representing Smallwood are Hegedus the Fair, their Secretary of Magic, who’s learning the dark arts from Prince Winthrop and who believes victory for Black Mountain’s democratic rebels is inevitable and must be prepared for; and Gyongi the Proud, their Court Wizard and secret father of the rebel leader who wants the Smallwood heir appointed monarch and not consort. The representatives from Black Mountain are Zoltin the Serious, their Secretary of Magic, who truly wants whatever is best for both lands but whose work is complicated by the adoration of Princess Tiffany; and Belobor the Wizard of No and Court Wizard, who seeks to destroy the rebels above all but wants to keep Prince Chadwick as their lover at the same time.

We settle fairly quickly on the pairing of the two Princesses, Tiffany of Black Mountain, the most beautiful and lover of celebrations, marrying Aster of Smallwood, who over-plans and overachieves at everything but has not-so-secret sympathies for the democracy rebels. This satisfies the Smallwood sympathies for the rebels, but Gyongi must accept Aster being relegated to consort, for Belobor insists Tiffany be monarch to protect royal prerogative. To further mollify Gyongi, the new capital shall be in Smallwood, although the combined army shall be led by a Black Mountain general, so perhaps there is still danger. Dobra is concerned about the question of children, but the others promise to use their magics to ensure the line continues, so she has no objections. The wedding is held in Black Mountain serving Smallwood delicacies, to symbolize the unity of the new kingdom before the new rulers head off to Smallwood to begin their reign.

An incomplete drawing of two princesses holding hands, one with purple eyeshadow and shawl, the other in pink.