Category Archives: magic

The Sorcerer’s Tower

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In the mysterious continent of Xendrick, the adventuring party came across a very old abandoned tower.  The only way into the tower was a long sloping tunnel that turned out to be trapped and filled with a deadly poison and the numerous corpses of the previous adventuring parties.  Of course, if you are a D & D adventurer, such a tunnel is not going to scare you off.  It is going to irresistibly pull you in.

After nearly dying on three different attempts to get through the tunnel, Gandy Rumspot, the halfling rogue and thief, realized that it was a poison gas in the tunnel.  So he sent Big Cogwheel, the warforged artificial man who didn’t need to actually breathe air, to use his natural immunity to poison to go down and open the tricky invisible door and gain access to the tower.

Voila!  On to further tricks and traps.  At one point, exploding skeleton warriors animated by necromantic trap spells nearly killed Cog the warforged (by rolling a twenty on an attack roll) and required a miraculous magical repair by Gandy to save him.  That left the big metal man with a permanent irrational fear of skeletons.

Along the way, they encountered and had to overcome a bound female demon who had been imprisoned in the tower to keep watch over the property.  She was the slave of the Wizard Crane, builder of the tower long ago, who had then gone abroad and died in his semi-noble quest to slay a devil.  She told the adventurers a great deal about her former master and her imprisonment, monologuing  as villains will before killing and eating the adventurers.  She overdid it, though, accidentally revealing the presence in the room of the devil jar that enslaved her, and even more stupidly, revealing how to activate the jar to physically seal her inside like a genii in a lamp.

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Finally, they found the teleport room in the top of the tower which zapped them to the dungeon under the earth where Crane’s ultimate treasure was kept.  It turned out to be a crystal ball which contained all the knowledge, memories, and experiences of Crane himself.  In fact, Crane’s entire life up to the point where he left on his fatal adventure took the form of Crane’s imprisoned self, longing to have someone to talk to again after hundreds of years of loneliness.  This proved to be a great boon to the magic users in the party, especially the half-elven wizardess Drualia.  So that adventure left the adventuring team with more than a mere heap of experience points.  It also gained them a crystal ball with an imprisoned sorcerer in it to talk too much and complain too much and teach them exotic and dangerous magic spells.

Like any three-session D & D adventure, this one was probably a lot more entertaining to play than it was to retell, but there it is, complete with the secrets that kept my players thinking about them for more than three weeks.

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The Family That Slays Trolls Together…

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As a family, we play Dungeons and Dragons.  Well, all of us, that is, except Mom.  It’s basically against her religion and means the Jehovah’s Witness version of Hell for us. (Which is a spiritual condition where God refuses to talk to you, and play checkers with you, and then you die.)  But let’s not discuss that here.  I don’t need her to start thinking about reasons to divorce me.  She accepts that it is a thing we do and like and keep mostly to ourselves.  (I just rolled a 15 on a twenty-sided dice to succeed in that charm-enemy spell and avert disaster.)

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As a family we have chosen to use the Eberron campaign available from Wizards of the Coast, the company that now publishes all official D&D stuff.  It is a medieval/Renaissance sort of setting where magic is every-day common and takes the place of science in the real world.

I get to be game master and creator of the basic plots and stories.  My three kids, Dorin, Henry, and the Princess are the player characters who interact with the world and determine the outcomes of the adventures through the rolling of Dungeon Dice.

I want to assure you at this point that my eldest son does not actually have a watermelon for a head.  Maybe metaphorically, but he is easily the smartest and most likely to be a leader of my three kids.  His character routinely pursues ideas like replacing his arms with magical metal arms, or grafting additional arms on his body.  He has chosen the phoenix to be the symbol on his personal flag and coat of arms, but his artifice roll to create the magical ship’s flag turned out to make it look more like a pigeon that someone set on fire.  (You have to watch out for those rolls of “1” on a 20-sided dice.)

Henry, my middle child, likes to play a halfling.  The little hobbit-like character is the one called upon to disarm all the tiger traps and poison-arrow traps that line the dungeon tunnels ahead.  He is a problem-solver in real life.  And he wants to be an architect.  In D&D games, he is often the first one to run up to danger and look it in the blood-shot eye.

Every D&D group needs a wizard or some other magic-user.  Ours has Mira, the Kalashtar mind- wizard.  My daughter’s character can use mind powers to float in the air, pick up and throw things with her mind alone, and figure out ways to do things using as little physical effort as possible.  Oh, and she loves to eat chocolate.  (The character, I mean… or is it actually the daughter?  I don’t know.  It is sometimes hard to tell them apart.)

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In our last adventure, we went to investigate the evil doings going in Evernight Keep, a castle in the country of Aundair.  We were able to not only defeat the evil mind-flayer, Dr. Zorgo, who had turned everyone into golems in the castle, but also to win the castle and the title of the Duke of Passage.  Now that they own a castle, my little band of adventurers will have to defend it, and I know of one old game master who will definitely throw all kinds of evil challenges at them.

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Critiques in Color

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I recently posted about being synesthetic and discovering how I am different from normal people.  Here is the post if you are interested..   Then I discovered that Kanye West is also synesthetic as he gushed some southern-fried crappie-doo about how wonderful he is as an artist because he sees the colors of his music.  Well, now I don’t want that mental affliction any more.  I don’t wish to be anything like him.  Of course, it has to be incurable, doesn’t it.

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Now I am wasting today’s post on another metacognative thinking-about-thinking style of paragraph pile when I could be rhapsodizing about the humor of Dave Barry or the wisdom of Robert Fulghum, the author of

All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

Here it is on Amazon.

I could be shamelessly promoting the work of artists whose works I love instead of examining the random filing cabinets in the back rooms of my stupid old head.  But I can’t because I now need to explain myself to myself again.  Self doubt and self examination are features of being an artist.  We reach a point where we have to think about how we do what we do, because if you don’t know where the magic comes from, you might not be able to call on it the next time you need it.

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I am a self-taught artist.  I have had art classes in high school and college, but never professional art training.  I know how to manipulate the rule of thirds, directional composition, movement, perspective, and lots of other artsy-craftsy techniques, but it is all a matter of trial and error and an instinct for repeating what works.  I have had a good deal more professional training as a writer.  But I do that mostly by instinct as well.  Trained instinct.  I have reached a point where my art is very complex and detailed.  And I don’t mean to suggest there are no flaws.  In fact, I am capable enough to see huge, glaring mistakes that really skew my original intent and make me feel hopelessly incompetent.  But others who see it and don’t know the inner workings of the process can look past those mistakes and not even see them.  Given enough time to look at my own work with new eyes, I am able to see at least some of what they see.

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Now that I have totally wasted 500-plus words on goofy talking-to-myself, what have I really accomplished beyond boring you to death?  What’s that you say?  You are not dead yet?  Well, that’s probably only because you looked at the pictures and didn’t read any of my sugar-noodle brain-scrapings in loosely paragraph-like form.  And if you did read this awful post by a colorblind artist who doubts his own abilities, you probably didn’t learn anything from it.  But that’s not the point.  The point is, I care about doing this, and I need to do it right.  And I managed to learn something… how to ramble and meander and make something that is either a hot mess… or something that vaguely resembles self-reflective art.

 

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Feeling a Little Loony

Some days I feel loony… April first comes to mind

Loonies

And I can be quite cartoony… It really helps to unwind

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So I’ll make some Paffooney… and draw it while blind

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And grow really prunie… old wrinkles unwind

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And magic up some moony… to leave all worry behind.

Dumb Luck

April Fools! from an old fool.

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Book Magic, the Empathy Spell

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I have long known that reading good books is the primary path to being a wizard.  There are many, many things you can learn from the magic contained in fiction books, but now there is also research that proves books can improve your empathetic skills.  Here is the article I found to suggest it is so;

http://blog.theliteracysite.com/fiction-readers/?utm_source=lit-twcfan&utm_medium=social-fb&utm_term=20160108&utm_content=link&utm_campaign=fiction-readers&origin=lit_twcfan_social_fb_link_fiction-readers_20160108

If you don’t feel energetic enough to actually go there and read that, let me summarize a bit.  When you read a good fiction story, you get to live for a while in another person’s skin… see the world through someone else’s eyes… and if it is intelligent, realistic, and complex enough, it rewires a bit of the part of your brain that tries to understand and make sense of perspectives that are new to you, not merely habits that you follow down muddy, well-worn paths on auto-pilot.  You get to practice understanding other people.  And the more you practice this with well-written, insightful material, the more empathetic you will become.  The article notes significantly that children reading J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series develop skill at compassion.  I can personally testify that as a middle school teacher, I saw that very thing happening as students in my nerd classes not only became more sensitive towards the gifted weirdos in their class because of Harry, but also became more understanding of the special education students, and other often-bullied minorities.  Harry Potter books are literally magic books.

Here are some other notable books and their magical powers;

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee is taught in numerous middle schools and high schools across the country because teachers have instinctively realized how much it does to solve problems of racial and cultural tension in the school environment.  It tackles the unfairness of racism, the effects of extreme poverty, the possible side effects of too much religion, and it illustrates everything through the voice of a very intelligent young girl.  Learning hard lessons becomes practically painless.

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The Book Thief by Markus Zusak is narrated by the angel of death.  It is set in Nazi Germany in the war years.  The central character is the daughter of a man arrested and executed as a communist.  She is forced to live with German foster parents who turn out to be very loving individuals, though they are enduring difficulties of their own.  They not only love and nurture her, they take in a young Jewish man who is fleeing the Gestapo and the work camps.  In the face of the constant threat of death, the main character learns to read both books and people, to care about others, and face the deaths of those she loves without fear.  This book makes beauty out of human ugliness and war, and love out of fear and death.  Very powerful magic, in my humble opinion.

So what am I saying in this Paffoonied post of books and magic?  Only this.  There is magic power to be gained from reading fiction books, especially well-written fiction books.  Try it for yourself.  You may accidentally turn yourself into a frog… or a little girl from Maycomb, Georgia in the 1930’s… but it will turn out to be very good magic.  Go ahead, try it.  I dare you.

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Mickey is Magical

I have decided that since I have a tendency to write science fiction and fantasy, with a special emphasis on the fantasy part, I should actually be able to do magic.  It doesn’t take a lot of self-examination to see that it is so.

Teacher Magic

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As a teacher I know several powerful magic spells.  I have the power to put teenagers into a deep and restful sleep.  All I have to do is start a lesson focus and heads drop to desks and snore-music fills the part of the room that my blah-blah doesn’t.  I also have a powerful ability to make teenagers hate things.  All I have to do is testify with my best honest-to-goodness face that something is good for them, and they will thoroughly hate it.  Protein at breakfast is good for you?  Gotta hate that.  Independent reading of books is good for you?  I have just made the entire school library radioactive by saying it.  Think what good a teacher could do if the principal would only let them say, “Illegal drugs are good for you!” or, “You should join a street gang, it would be good for you!” or even, “Racial prejudice is a good thing for our white society!”  (I know I would never actually feel good about saying those things, and I could never make the proper honest-to-goodness face, but that last thing was actually tried by a teacher I once worked with… he said it because he believed it… and even the white kids were instantly up in arms and got that teacher fired.  Come to think of it, that was the only lesson he ever taught that I actually approved of.)  An even more powerful teacher magic is to forbid things.  Anything forbidden by a teacher or a teacher’s rules is the only thing they want to do.  I was able to get kids to read more by forbidding them to read library books during lessons.  I found it strengthened the urge to occasionally catch them doing it and lecture them about how they will end up unable to flip burgers at McDonald’s because they will let interesting and complicated stuff get in the way of mindlessly doing repetitive tasks.

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Traffic Magic

I have an amazing magical power over stoplights.  I can unfailingly turn them bright red just by approaching them, no matter what color they were five and a half seconds before.  If I am in a hurry, I have the power to make that red light last for more than the three minutes that is supposed to be the maximum for the cycle.

I can also make old people (of course I mean other old people) drive slower in the fast lane by driving behind them.  I can make young guys in Bubba trucks zoom in front of me and nearly kill me simply by having a few inches of space between my front bumper and the rear end of the car I’m following.  I don’t know how they fit those big old Chevys and Ford Broncos and Dodge Rams in those little spaces which are less than half as long as their vehicles, and do it while using one hand to give me the finger out their window.  I suppose they have fold-able bones like a rat so they can squeeze through tight places.

Laughing Magic

20150105_161714 I suppose the magical power I am proudest of is my ability to magically make people laugh at me.  (Yes, they always say they are laughing with me, not at me… but we all know how humor really works.  We laugh because we are really happy that it didn’t happen to us!)  I am able to put on the clown nose and people automatically laugh almost as hard as they laugh at me without the clown nose.  I am able to say things in weird words that stimulate your brain to shout silently in your head, “That jest ain’t right!”, and you automatically think, “Funny!”  So, with all this magical power, I have concluded… I am a wizard!

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Wild Rides in My Own Head

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Of late I have encountered many roadblocks on the road to creativity.  Illness gets in the way.  It is hard to think when I have too much arthritis pain.  I have a hard time composing anything on days like yesterday when my blood sugar is out of whack.  I haven’t been chased by car-driving crocodiles in red fright-wigs and green race cars.  At least, not while I was awake.  I am trying to follow a writing schedule that has me editing a novel for a contest in April, writing two other novels simultaneously, a set of short stories, and this daily blog that I am trying to average 500 words per day in every day  (and succeeding now for roughly 41 straight days) (some days I write less words, but some days I go way over the stated limit).  I end up squeezing the toothpaste tube of new ideas from both ends until the big wad in the middle finally bursts and gets white gobbets of creative-idea paste on everything in the room.  I will admit that I mangle a metaphor or two, and give meaning to random blobs of description merely for the sake of adding more words.  And what is this bit about, then?  Clearly I am thinking about how I think and it is not a pretty sight.  Sometimes my children bounce out of the rumble seat towards the river of man-eating fish, and I have to depend on the odd three-eyed alien tootling along in a space-doughnut to catch him or her in the nick of time.  But sometimes, too, I am the rabbit, calmly watching from the sidelines hoping not to get run over but too fascinated to look away from the slap-dash slap-stick chase scene that is my actual life.  This particular bit of tooth-paste squeezing is known as free writing, where I just keep stringing words and phrases together for as long as I can keep my aching fingers from falling off.  I make corrections as I go, but there is no outline here, no discernible pattern, and very little logical coherence.  Like the picture Paffooney, once it gets started, it just goes.  And goes and goes.  I have bounced over broken bridges and landed squarely on the pavement on the other side more than once of late.  I paid the tax on the house and managed to remain a homeowner for another year.  I fought off numerous bill-collecting crocodiles set on me by credit-card banks who are after me to pay off mountains of accumulated debt and interest after my multiple career-ending illnesses.  I have lawyers helping me with debt reduction, the step before bankruptcy, which is also probably the step before stepping off the ledge at the top of the Chrysler Building.   I continue to draw stuff that makes little or no visual sense, and post them here to further delight, dazzle and delude you.  And, of course, I have the audacity to label this word free-for-all as humor… but I have reached five hundred and five words.

Thaumaturge

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