the grid

the grid

Sunday 9 June 2024

2024 Session 2: TLQuest week 4

If you're busy this week/when reading this, the weekly goals and prompts are right at the bottom after the list of last week's goals, just skip the earlier stuff!

Greetings!  It really does feel like nearly work-summer here - all marks had to be in earlier this week so those of us who are not out in the field are now knee-deep in students with questions/problems, ranging from the resigned one asking about resits already (August, child, August) to the confused one who forgot to ask for an extension on one assignment of three due the same week they were out having a minor operation, administrators asking for checks of modules (marks are passed from the VLE to the student information system (SIS) to code-laden spreadsheets in a nearly but not quite automated way, and since the ViLE and the SIS don't talk quite the same language, and human intervention is involved, there are many small opportunities for error so the spreadsheets come back to us for manual checking - but of course half our colleagues are in the field/on holiday/at conferences/away external examining for other universities already, so someone has to be found to do the task)... but the first examiners meeting is next week, and the university has announced an All Hands Financial Situation Is Dire meeting the week after, which are as much a sign of summer as swifts screaming overhead, and the traffic cones are out in swarms on local roads, also a good sign in the UK.  Which has me thinking about how to create little moments of True Summer, the ones that seemed so possible on the last day of school when we were children, acres of time and lashings of lemonade and real, deep freedom.  Because there isn't room for the big stuff, between summer goals, the creep of the rest of the job (the All Hands will be bad news the only unknown is how deep and how soon the cuts will be; resit creation and processing invades July and August, and ViLE set up/new software arrivals/preparing for Clearing start in August, and there are project student crises all summer...), and just Being A Grown Up.  What does True Summer look like for you, and how can you capture it?  I'll be making at least one batch of my Granny's Home Made Lemonade and finding a tree to drink some under whilst reading metaphysical poetry...

Our adventurers will be up bright and early in the morning to get information about their chosen quest this week.

Our characters have decided they want to be Skilled Assistants to Silan Fontana - even if Scout is only going along because she thinks the rest are too kind hearted and may find themselves aiding a poisoner, or poisoned by a poisoner, plus it's close to where Mistress Underwood is offering good socks (anyone who walks any distance knows the value of Good Socks, which was considerably greater when socks were all hand made by people - my Great Great (Great? I lose count) Grandmother actually paid rent in her old age in the form of half a dozen pairs of navy blue shooting stockings - thigh high socks for wearing inside boots when standing around in chilly dawns - hand made for the landowner who had respected her deceased husband and allowed her to stay in his tied cottage for her last years, with the socks as rent for mutual dignity, or so the family story has it).

In D&D, there are three "modes of game play" - social interactions, exploring (interactions with the physical environment) and combat (hostile interactions).  Different characters shine in different places!  Basic game play is the same in all cases - the DM describes the situation, players describe what their character wants to do, and the DM decides whether they can do that and whether there is a chance of it not succeeding, in which case a dice roll is made to see what happens.  For example, 

  • the DM says "you come to a stone bridge crossing the river, with several small statues evenly spaced along the parapet on the up-stream side".  
  • The elf ranger wants to carefully inspect the closest statue, the human fighter wants to take a quick look under the bridge arches in case of trolls, and the halfling bard wants to hurry along to the tavern.  
  • The ranger would make a roll to determine how much information they collect from their inspection, the fighter would make a roll to determine how stealthily they moved to get under the bridge, and the bard would just set off across the bridge without a dice roll being needed.  
  • Each in turn rolls, and the DM explains what happens as a consequence (perhaps the ranger realises that what they thought were statues are actually Leathery Winged Avians having a nap, the fighter slips and falls in the river making a loud splash (but seeing no trolls), and the bard is now half-way across the bridge singing a little tune, so the DM is about to roll for the LWAs to see if they wake up hungry...).

In the full game, the DM decides how hard the task is (how high the player has to roll to succeed, or to get different levels of information), and players keep track of all the properties of their characters (everyone has numerical scores for strength, intelligence etc., and skills in specific areas) and add or subtract those values from the dice rolls (e.g. a ranger will usually have a high wisdom score, the personal quality which determines how well a character can perceive and interpret their environment, so might be able to add 3 or 4 bonus points to their roll to inspect the statues.  But the fighter might be wearing plate mail, which is noisy, so would subtract one or two bonus points from their roll to be sneaky).  To keep this TLQ version simple, I'm going to adjust the difficulty level of a task for the character, based on their race and class, but the same idea will apply.  And hopefully that's the last of the long bits of explanations of mechanics needed! On to our first social encounter:

It's a fine morning, and the tavern bakes fresh bread every day, so our group are decently fed and in good moods as they set out to follow the directions they've been given to Silas Fortana's cottage.  The Innkeeper said Silas was a decent enough old boy and didn't charge locals more than they could pay for his remedies, but that he hasn't come in for a drink for the last week or so, and the notice had been pinned up by one of his neighbours.  The village seems to be reasonably prosperous, and no-one is surprised to see a group of travellers, although a couple of dogs follow along companionably for a while.  Silas lives in a small cottage a field or two away from the main village, close to the woods.  You spot his cottage immediately because it is surrounded by a riot of green, neatly divided into sections by gravelled paths.  As you get closer, those of you who know about plants will realise that the divisions reflect conditions - a full sun bed against a southerly wall, a shade bed, a bed with crushed lime scattered among the plants to make the soil more alkali.  The whole garden is neatly fenced, and a wider fenced path leads to the cottage door.

It will take a while for someone to come to the door - you will hear barking, small noises inside, someone telling a "fool dog" to calm down.  Eventually it opens, and you see an elderly human man leaning on a crutch and holding a large handkerchief in his other hand.  He's wearing simple clothes that are made of good fabric but have clearly seen a lot of gardening action, he is missing his left leg below the knee, and he is having a good old fashioned coughing fit.  Once he gets his breath back, he encourages you to take a seat on a pair of benches outside the door, because he needs some fresh air himself, and because the cottage will be right frowsty as he's been mostly in bed the last eight days.  Between bouts of wheezing and coughing, he tells you about his situation.  "You must think I'm not up to much, an apothecary who can't cure his own cough overnight.  But an ordinary apothecary like me can't stop a human from aging, and if the children are sharing around a cold, well, the whole village gets it.  My lungs aren't what they were before, and anything like that goes to them and settles in for a while, whatever I do.  I've been waiting for the weather to get settled before arranging a trip to Darkthorn Woods, it's quite an undertaking for an old codger like me, although there's usually a couple of local youngsters willing to have a bit of an adventure and a break from shovelling muck or pulling weeds, I wouldn't go there alone.  But now this... and I'm out or nearly out of several of my summer cures which require those herbs.  I need a few weeks to get some of them properly prepared and matured, and now the weather is decent, people will be wandering into the woods or marshes or trysting in hedgerows, get over-confident in their foraging, roll in the wrong kind of grass, sit on ant-hills, get bitten by the wrong kind of bug, or the children will be playing further away from the village and picking pretty green leaves or daring each other to poke sticks into holes to disturb beasts.  People will people, and I hate not being able to help them get over the consequences of outdoor peopling.  I can pay well and tell you where to go and all that, and I know those plants so well I can be sure to identify them even if they are a bit dried out by the time they get back here, you needn't worry you'll poison anyone by collecting the wrong thing - or get away with defrauding this old man, although you don't seem the types.  So are some of you people willing to go to Darkthorn Woods and fetch me some Singing Nettles, Feyflax and Perennewinkle?"  By this point the dog, an elderly three-legged particoloured mixed breed sort of animal, has decided you are all wonderful and is going around demanding petting, and you are aware of being intently observed by two cats, one on a windowsill and one in the thatch.

So, are there any actions your characters want to take?  Things you could do might include wanting to do an insight check (do your instincts and people-savvy tell you he's being completely honest?), check your own memory to see if you know anything about that place or those herbs, make an excuse to look around his house or garden, ask his cats... or you might want to do something specific to prepare for a journey away from the road, or to ask more questions.



1. Submit revisions for Paper 1
2. Submit revisions for Paper 2
3. Big association meeting and attached reports
4. Edits on local paper for colleague
5. Read and comment on student proposals and thesis chapters


1. finish reading MS I'm reviewing for a press
2. one unit Greek
3. progress on Alms
4. 2 x 2 hours garden
5. notes on at least one ILL book
6. something else worth reporting


1. Write (/read for book) 15 hours
2. Finish reading review book
3. Send two big emails to grad students
4. Read dissertation chapter
5. Review article


1. self-care: tick off at least 75% of the regular chores list, additional intentional movement three days, do physio recommended stretches with great caution at least three days (did everything instructed on Saturday, and today I'm regretting it), practicing rest as needed. The decluttering woman is coming on Friday so I will need to be on the ball for that despite working Monday to Thursday...
2. fun: play some kind of ttrpg (may not be D&D this week), knit some, draw something, read something
3. teaching and administration: last-last minute marking (marks are due in Monday, BUT a colleague has an "extension" and may need help, three blocks of teaching preparation from my list
4. meeting about service stuff in my field now I'm "back". Improve research session goal. referee report on an article. at least an hour on the Slowly Developing Paper


1. Presentation for workshop next week.
2. Decluttering - take books from study to charity shop.
3. FIL's birthday.


1. Finish settling in, doing house stuff.
2. Re-read Famous Author, set plan.
3. Do something fun this weekend, to remind myself that, “I’m not in Kansas anymore.”

Your TLQuest prompt is: having heard what Silas Fontana had to say, what does your character want to do now?

Your real-world TLQ prompt is: What does True Summer look like for you, and what can you do to make sure little moments of it happen this year?  Plus of course goals check ins! 

Sunday 2 June 2024

2-24 Session 2: TLQuest week 3

Greetings, everyone - it's now officially meteorological summer in the Northern Hemisphere so naturally where I am in the UK today it is overcast with occasional spitting rain and I'm wearing a cardigan with a big scarf whilst sitting at the computer!  I hope you're all having equally seasonal weather...  This week our adventurers gather in a tavern where they'll meet each other and decide which quest they want to do, which led me to thinking about how we make decisions about what to work on.  I very much struggle with this - there are so many possibilities, but it's also so hard to plan effectively between the fickleness of grant awards, the huge variability in speed of responses to submitted papers, and being in a collaborative subject where colleagues are on different schedules and it seems ALL of us dealing with some sort of job or life complications!  Any tips or stories to share?

If you're busy this week/when reading this, the weekly goals and prompts are right at the bottom after the list of last week's goals, just skip the earlier stuff!

It's a D&D cliche that adventures start with everyone getting together in a tavern - but it's a cliche for a sound narrative reason, and we're starting there too.  This tavern is located at the edge of a fairly well-travelled road which connects the large town of Elinard with the city of Caisterhythe.  Elinard sits in the foothills of the Boarcrest Mountains, and hosts markets and interchanges which bring together the different races - dwarves bring iron work and gems from the roots of the mountains, halfling villages occupy folds of land in the foothills and cheerful families bring the sweetest cream and most satisfying taffy-like candies to market, quiet gnomes from hidden communities high on the forested slopes bring beautifully decorated wooden items from treasure boxes to honey dippers and abacuses along with berries, mushrooms and resinous bark, and elves pass through with a wealth of songs, jewelery, blended forest tisanes and lacy, crisp nut and honey wafers which are all the craze among rich city humans.  There is even rumoured to be an elven city somewhere in the gorges along the fast-running River Elin, although on-one local can tell you where to look.  Caisterhythe, about ten day's travel away from Elinard, is a human dominated walled city which is crowded within and sprawling beyond the walls of a much older fort.  Located where the Elin joins the Northbranch River to form a waterway barges can use, and at the confluence of several trade roads, it's a busy, bustling place with a substantial temple complex, well known Wizard's college, and plenty of accommodations for travellers going to and from the royal city of Aliard, the sea coast, the West March where a constant low-scale war of raid and counter-raid has been going on for generations between the civilised lands and the creatures of the haunted Black Moor, blighted result of a past magical cataclysm, or starting the long trek to the southern steppe and desert lands whence yearly caravans bring spices, magical ingredients and the strangest stories.  

The tavern itself is quite an ordinary sort of place, on the edge of a small farming settlement, itself conveniently near the road.  The road is safe enough at this point for a solo traveller if they are sensible about where they stay at night and can protect themselves, and the lands it travels through are by local standards peaceful, which doesn't mean entirely safe; there are outlaws, there are creatures in the woods and marshes which can be hungry or dangerous to the unwary, and small settlements and roving bands of peoples outside the compact of races who prefer to help themselves to what they want.  This tavern is a typical stopping point where a traveller can get a safe place to sleep for a reasonable price, access good well water, and buy ale, a cooked meal, or basic travel food, and outside of travelling season it is still regularly host to a few locals and gets market day trade from the outlying farms and settlements.  The large common room is generally friendly and social, although there's an unspoken "locals to left, travellers to the right, news exchange at the bar" geography to the place.  At the bar, there is a notice board (literacy is not universal, but it's normal for most of the longer-lived races and so more common among humans than in our world's middle ages in a "keeping up with the pointy-eared types" way, or the barman will helpfully write a sign or read the board for an illiterate visitor) which used by locals and travellers alike.

Your characters have all decided to break their journey at the tavern, and find themselves sharing the common table on the travellers side of the bar for their evening meal or drink.  They will agree to group together to take on one of the jobs offered by the notice board.  So this week's game play is a bit of role playing and some decision making - what do the others see when they look at your character, what sort of impression do they get, what sort of information is shared?  Your character might be friendly but not say much of substance, cheerfully tell everyone their life story (or the public version thereof), start the story telling, or focus on practical information about the road ahead.  They might be the kind to try every option on the menu and ask for the local beer, or carefully stick to bread and cheese.  They might be spending the coin to have a small room to themselves and buying drinks for everyone, sleeping in the common attic where everyone gets a decent bed pallet and a lockable chest for their gear and sharing the standard meal (bread, soft cheese, generous portions of a stew which has enough meat in it to flavour the vegetables well, stored apples and a honeycake, served with herbal tea or local ale), or using the clean straw in the stall in the barn the owner has set aside for the poorest travellers (both for charity and because they don't want rough sleepers attracting any nuisance creatures) and nursing a single cup of ale.  As for the decision, the noticeboard is currently offering three jobs/requests from help for travellets.  Which one most appeals to your character?  We'll treat the comments as a straw poll, so if you could rank the jobs 1 (preferred) to 3 (least interested) for your character that would be helpful.

NOTICE BOARD - in case the fonts aren't legible, the three "Work for Pay" items are: 1) "Skilled assistance required. Good prices paid for Specific Herbs currently on Short Sipply in the region needed by Apothecary. Silas Fontanis - ask at bar for directions".  2) "Weird stuff happening to sheep - can you help work out what is going on?  Payment (in goods only). Stubbings Farm" and 3) "CAUTION travellers on North Bluff road - third goblin attack last week.  Travel in groups, take care.  Villages of Redgrove and Upper Bluff offer reward of 50 gold to anyone who can find and remove goblin camp"
Did I say fewer words from me?? Oh well...


Complete my part of Paper 1 revision to hand over to colleagues
Do modelling for Paper 2 revision
Plan out first weeks of field work for visiting student
Do conference finance mop-up
Clean out garden beds, plant seedlings, and hope they survive
Fun with friend

keep "office hours" 3-4 days
make progress on Alms
1 unit Greek review
2 x 2 hours in the garden
look at spreadsheet of choices for book group
enjoy various celebratory and social activities

Write 10 hours
Make a second book
Read 1/2 of review book

self-care: tick off at least 75% of the regular chores list, additional intentional movement three days, eye specialist appointment, resting as needed
fun: play D&D, knit some, and finish the novel I'm currently reading.
teaching and administration: any last minute marking, two blocks of teaching preparation from my list.
send a couple of emails starting to pick up with different service stuff in my field now I'm "back". Improve research session goal. referee report on an article. Attend an online seminar.

Read PhD chapters for two students.
Start thinking about presentation for workshop next month.
Moderate exam scripts.
Prep for two meetings (one is an academic misconduct panel, so will not be fun, chairing the other)
Send sympathy cards to uncle and cousin (an aunt died this weekend).
Present and card for my MIL's birthday.
Eat healthily
Do some gardening stuff if weather improves
Read book for book club.

We would all like an update on the health of Ginger George please!
Finish re-reading Famous author to figure out direction
Make sure I have everything for the summer, for Famous Author and for Rest of Life Project
Do 2 hour required course on people behaving badly (we have to do 2 hours every 2 years. This is my last one.)
Touch base with deans, colleagues, etc.
Keep up with changing TA assignments
Finish packing
Try to plan mini-breaks over the summer; so far it's quite sociable, with several people coming to visit, but my planned hike fell through, and I need to plan my trip, in addition to a short trip with a friend and another short one with my sister.

In summary
your TLQuest prompt is: what do the rest of the group see/hear of your character in the tavern?  Which job most interests them from the noticeboard?

your real world TLQ prompt is: how do you make decisions about which TLQ tasks make it onto the action list and which don't; how do you plan research in an ever-changing world?  Plus of course how did you get on last week and what are your plans for the coming week?

Sunday 26 May 2024

2024 Session 2: TLQuest Week 2

Greetings everyone and welcome to our actual first week of the session. If you're busy this week/when reading this, the weekly goals and prompts are at the end of this text, just skip the earlier stuff!  This week we're going to flesh out our characters a bit by thinking about their race and what they keeps in their pocketses (or backpacks or satchels or whatever they carry stuff around in).  Which makes me think about the things that I find very important for doing TLQ work - things like my current favourite pen, the specific type of notebook I use as a planner, and a big cup of water.  What are your essential items?

This week's gameplay:

This week, we're going to finish setting up our characters (I'm keeping a spreadsheet of our party so we can always refer back to that if anyone forgets the details - in D&D each player fills out a fairly detailed character sheet to refer to each week)!

Firstly, decide what 'race' your character is.  The number of playable races in D&D has expanded hugely, but for this game we're going to stick to some of the classic fantasy options.  We already know Heu Mihi's druid is a gnome,  Gnomes are small (usually 3-4 feet tall), smart, see well in low light, are good at dodging magical attacks, and speak both gnomish and common (the human trade language which everyone uses as a shared tongue in D&D).

To decide your character's race, you can either pick the best option from the lists below, or have the dice make the decision: for this week we're using a standard 6-sided die or as we call it a d6.  If you don't have one around, you can roll a digital dice by CLICKING HERE : set the roller to roll 1 d6 dice with nothing added, click roll, and you'll get a number.  Using the dice: 1 - dwarf, 2- elf, 3 - gnome, 4 - halfling, 5 or 6 - human

  • Dwarf - dwarves have a strong sense of fair play and are short but sturdy (considered medium sized - c. 5 foot).  They are very hardy, can see in the dark, all have combat training, skills with tools and an understanding of stone regardless of their class.  They speak Common and Dwarvish (the dwarvish literature tends towards genealogy, law codes, and detailed treatise about rocks and mining).
  • Elf - elves tend to be refined and sophisticated, and lovers of freedom and independence.  They are naturally graceful, about the same size as humans but always with slender builds, can see in the dark and in general have keener senses than the other races.  They can resist some magic, and meditate for a few hours rather than sleeping as other races do.  They speak Common and Elvish - Elvish books are mostly rich and varied literature and history, often written as poetry rather than prose.
  • Gnome - as described.  Gnomish writing tends towards technical treatises and catalogues of knowledge of the natural world.
  • Halfling (essentially hobbits) - halflings are good-humoured, kind and traditional small folk, about 3 foot tall, who are nimble, lucky and brave.  They speak and write common and halfling.  Halflings don't tend to write much in their own language, but have a rich living oral tradition.
  • Human - humans are relatively short-lived compared to most fantasy races, but they are fast breeders and very tenacious, so tend to be the dominant race in much of the world (other races mostly live in their own places, with relatively few spending time or making a life in the human areas).  D&D humans are considered "medium" creatures (5-7 feet tall) and are quick learners.  They speak Common, and an adventurous type will have also learnt at least one other language.
Next, we're going to think about their equipment - the basic things they have to take into the world.  Each class has a basic "starter set" and since we currently have a Druid, a Rogue, a Ranger and either a Ranger or a Bard, I'll just talk about those classes here (when Daisy is back from fieldwork and joins us, if she picks a different class we'll sort that then).

Everyone has a pack of basic equipment - a backpack, a bedroll, a mess kit, a tinderbox, some torches, some basic rations, a waterskin, 50' of rope, and a change of clothes.  Our bard has some extra costuming/disguise supplies in place of the rope and candles rather than torches.  

  • a bard also has a musical instrument, a dagger, another weapon of their choice (a sword of some flavour or a crossbow/short bow), and some basic leather armor (which can be as simple as a sturdy leather jacket or jerkin)
  • a ranger has two melee weapons (e.g. short swords, hand axes etc.), a longbow and arrows, and some basic mail armor.  Because of their experience, they also know the language and ways of one common monster they often encounter e.g. orcs, goblins, or undead.
  • a rogue has a sword (they might choose something a little fancier like a rapier), two daggers, and a short bow with arrows, along with a set of thieves tools, basic leather armor, and knowledge of the secret language of Thieves Cant, which includes handsigns and symbols they can use to leave messages for other rogues, or read messages left by them.
  • a druid will have a wooden shield, some basic leather armor, and a simple weapon.  They also have a magical focus, which can take a range of forms like a piece of jewelery, a staff or wand, a totem they carry, and know a secret language called Druidic which allows druids to leave messages for each other etc.
There are quite a few options for the simple weapons all our characters can choose, which can cause various amounts of damage, and again you can either choose one that suits your character or roll a dice on this list: 
  1. a dagger (can also be thrown, but do less damage than others)
  2. a handaxe (can also be thrown)
  3. a javelin or spear (can be used to stab or thrown)
  4. a quarterstaff
  5. a short sword (the typical town guard or army infantry weapon)
  6. a rapier (a longer, thinner bladed sword suited for duels or sneak attacks rather than general fighting)
You can also have one other 'toolkit' of your own choice - that could be a first aid kit, a plant collecting kit, a notebook and pen and ink, some simple wood or leatherworking tools, a sewing kit, supplies for fishing and making snares etc.

And finally, our spellcasters need to pick their basic spells.  In D&D choosing and managing spells has lots of rules and complications, so I'm going for a very simplified version here!  There are two kinds of spells - cantrips (spells you know so well you can cast them all day) and spells (which take more energy and often also require special ingredients or more complex chants or gestures - you can only cast spells a few times each day before you deplete your energy reserves).  As your character gains experience, they get access to more spells, can cast more spells per day, and can cast spells which have bigger effects.

For our simple version, our first level characters just starting out on their adventures, each spell caster (bard, druid) knows two cantrips, can cast two spells a day, and can know three spells.  our half-caster (ranger) will know one cantrip and one spells, and can cast the spell once per day.  Here are some suggestions for cantrips and spells you can choose from - if there's something you think your character needs but it's not here, do ask!

  • firebolt (casts a ball of fire at an enemy or object to cause damage)
  • mending (you touch an object, and a single break or tear up to 1foot long is repaired)
  • minor illusion (you create a sound or image anywhere within 30' which lasts one minute)
  • animal friendship (convince a beast you mean it no harm)
  • cure wounds (touch a person or creature and restore some of their health points)
  • detect magic (cast the spell, and any magical objects or effects within 30' of you glow)
  • entangle (at a point of your choice which you can see, vines and brambles erupt from the ground and tangle round any creature in a 20 foot square area)
  • find familiar (this spell takes an hour and requires some expensive incense, but allows you to summon a spirit which takes the form of a small animal and can do simple tasks for you - you can also communicate telepathically with it when it is close and "borrow" its senses to see/hear what it sees or hears.  If you don;t want it around it can spend time in a pocket dimension and reappear as needed)
  • magic missile (you create three darts of glowing magical force which can be thrown at any creature within 60')
  • speak with animals (you can understand and communicate with animals and ask them questions for 1 minute - answers will depend on their intelligence and perspective!)
  • thunderwave (a wave of concussive force rolls out 15' from where you are standing, doing damage and pushing creatures and objects away).
Next week will be a bit less wordy on my part, as our characters will all meet up in the tavern and choose what sort of quest they will be going on!

Last week's goals:

Dame Eleanor Hull

- keep "office hours"
- finish Alms and send it
- 2 units Greek review
- 3 x 2 hours in the garden

Heu mihi

1. Two hours on my book x 4
2. Proofs of two journal articles
3. Yearbook letter (don't ask)
4. Assign TAships
5. Start making one book (for a fundraiser)


1)            self-care: tick off at least 75% of the regular chores list, additional intentional movement three days, eye specialist appointment, resting as needed (my first full 4 days week)
2)            fun: play D&D, knit some, and finish the novel I'm currently slowly reading. Book the Annual Leave days I've noted for June, July and August.
3)            teaching and administration (it's our last week of assessment/exams for the semester): complete some marking (two first year pieces, moderation of a module, check for late work). One online CPD course I need to tick off.
4)            rewrite the discussion section of Consultancy Paper, look for samples and assess where we are with Scribbly Paper (which was last touched before COVID), send a couple of emails starting to pick up with different service stuff in my field now I'm "back".  Improve research session goal.


1. Mark two lots of exam scripts (about 80 in total, due Thursday)
2. Agree dissertation marks with co-markers.
3. Help with GCSE revision as needed.
4. Exercise
5. Eat healthily


- Finish Big Collaboration work
- Return to Famous Author and figure out what I need to do.
- Organize committee meeting to plan fall
- Meet with Deans on issues
- Keep up with whatever happens next
- Get books to campus and to the library
- Start packing both for summer and fall
- Do any last minute shopping
- Do something fun

In summary

your TLQuest prompt is: pick the race and starting equipment that your character has (any specifics in their equipment e.g. what instrument they play or what weapon they carry, what their extra item is, and if they are a spell caster their starting spells).  And do they have a name?

your real world TLQ prompt is: reporting on weekly goals, and if you choose talk about the essential items in your researcher's toolkit - what's your current favourite pen or notebook, do you have a less obvious essential like a particular scent or kind of tea?  If you were a wandering scholar, what would be in your go-bag?

Sunday 19 May 2024

2024 Session 2: TLQuest Week 1

 Greetings everyone and welcome to our actual first week of the session.  If the theme does not interest you, or you're busy, please do skip to the final paragraphs with the usual prompts!

As usual for the first week of a new TLQ session, let's use the comments to introduce ourselves and set goals for the session (reminder: we're setting goals for three calendar months with a final report in on 18th August 2024), along with goals for next week.

For the northern hemisphere attendees, it's "summer vacation" season, which we tend to look forward to all year as a special space in the calendar - an opportunity to focus on TLQ a bit more, to repair or improve things about ourselves and our environment, to be reinspired and/or to initiate new research ideas that we'll work on around the edges of the other parts of the job for the rest of the year, or to complete projects to clear the decks, and to prepare for the coming academic year.  But at the same time, every year, it never quite lives up to that promise, because we over-plan, or Life Happens, or the goals we made for our future selves earlier in the year aren't quite the goals summer self actually cares about.  If it works for you, why not add one goal to your list which is what Summer You actually cares about, which if achieved by 18th August would make Summer You feel like something went right this year?  That could be one of your research goals, like completing a paper, a mixed goal like connecting with academic friends at a conference, or a purely "soft animal of your body" goal like read a poem outdoors every week, or buy fresh lemonade and a giant punnet of strawberries from my favourite farm shop....

This week's gameplay:

This week and next we're going to think about character creation in D&D.  In our "light touch" version we're not going to fill out a full character sheet, but we are going to think about the main features of our characters (or let the dice pick them).  In D&D, you don't get to start out as a Mary Sue or Gary Stu, who is perfectly competent at everything.  Your character is someone a little special compared with the general population because of their will to go on an adventure, and they start out with both strengths and weaknesses - the rules are clear that you can't be both very strong and very intelligent and very good at people, both nature and nuture mean your character is good at some things and less good at others (for example, I'm currently playing a ranger, Raven, who is very dextrous and has keen senses, but is not interested in or good at people, so he has low charisma, and is only averagely book-smart.  Our party wizard is extremely book-smart, also "bad at people", and weedy.  our Barbarian Fighter is dumb as two short planks but strong and persuasive...).  This affects how likely you are to succeed or fail at different kinds of challenges (Raven is excellent at moving quietly and shooting a long bow, but terrible at getting information out of a suspicious mayor or pretending to be an ordinaty farmer).  "Nature" and "nurture" in D&D are represented by the character's Race and Class - yes, we know race is a contested term, but there isn't an agreed-upon alternative - in a fantasy world it means things like elf or human, and since at least some of those types of person can interbreed species isn't a good alternative...). Many of the terms in D&D have awkward stereotypes or "general language" connotations reflecting their origin with white men in 1970s USA, and in high fantasy literature of the time (which was generally VERY Not Woke) - we can use alternatives if any of them bother you, please let me know & we'll use an alternative. 

This week we're going to think about character class or profession.   

There are three types of class in D&D - martial, half-caster or full-caster.  Martial classes focus on their physical skills (e.g. strength, dexterity, constitution) and are usually the fighters and/or explorers of the group (e.g. a Barbarian is a berserker, an unusually strong and resilient fighter), casters are magic users who focus on their mental skills (e.g. intelligence, wisdom/perception and charisma) and gain magic from various sources (e.g. a Wizard gains magical powers through book-study and uses spells for most things), and half-casters draw on both halves (e.g. a Ranger's life in the wilds means they are very good at surviving in wild places, but their study of the natural world also grants them some magical powers like talking to animals or supernaturally good archery).  As characters move through their adventures, they can become more skilled - a wizard learns more spells or can cast more powerful versions, a barbarian secures magical weapons and becomes tougher and stronger.  In addition to a general class, a character also has a background - a wizard can come from a noble family, have been a orphan apprenticed to a magical master because of their intelligence, have learnt their basic skills in a war college, or be a scholar who happens to have chosen to specialise in magic.  

To decide your character's class, you can either pick the best option from the lists below, or have the dice make the decision: for this week we're using a standard 6-sided die or as we call it a d6.  If you don't have one around, you can roll a digital dice by CLICKING HERE : set the roller to roll 1 d6 dice with nothing added, click roll, and you'll get a number.

First, roll 1d6 - if your result is 1 or 2, look at the martial list, 3 or 4, the half-caster, and 5 or 6, the caster.  Then either choose a class from the relevant column or roll another dice (if you don't like the outcome, roll again - you deserve to enjoy your character)!  Rogues turn up in two columns because they can choose to focus on their physical skills or to add a touch of magic to their tool kit.

  • Martial classes (do not have innate access to spell-casting, have strong physical skills): Barbarian (a berserker with rage issues, capable of extraordinary feats of endurance), monk (think martial arts, ninja), fighter (classic folk hero adventurer with a sword) or rogue (think sneak-thief, spy. assassin).  If letting the dice choose: 1 = barbarian, 2 or 3 = rogue, 4 or 5 = fighter, 6 = monk
  • Casters (cast spells as their main skills - a powerful but finite resource): Bard (their powers come through their music and abilities to charm or persuade people), cleric (a channel of the power of a deity), druid (channels the power of nature - some types have the option to shape-shift into creatures they know well), sorcerer (gains magical powers through their blood-line, e.g. an ancestor slept with a naturally magical entity like a fiend, a celestial or a dragon), wizard (gain magical powers through careful study), warlock (gain magical powers by making a Pact with a naturally magical entity like a Fey Lord, a Demon or an Old One) - If letting the dice choose: 1 = bard, 2=cleric, 3=druid, 4= sorcerer, 5=warlock, 6=wizard
  • Half-casters (mainly rely on a physical skill backed up by limited spell casting): Artificer (they are skilled crafts people or inventors with skills in potions or gadgets or devices), Rogue (thief, spy or assassin who chooses to enhance their skills with a few well chosen spells), Ranger (a traveller of the wilds - a tracker, hunter, guardian or scout who has survival skills and also learns some magic from their deep knowledge of the environment), Paladin (a holy warrior who channels the power of a deity through both their fists or weapons and through divine magics).  If letting the dice choose, 1=artificer, 2-3 = rogue, 4-5 = ranger, 6 = paladin

Having picked a profession, it's time to think of a background for your character - why and how did they end up in this profession?  If you want a prompt from the dice, roll another d6 - 1 = noble family origin, 2 = raised in family tradition of this profession, 3 = military (learned the profession in the town guard, a national army or a mercenary troop), 4 = education (learnt their trade through a school or apprenticeship), 5 = urchin (this background comes from poverty and has made their way by a combination of luck and graft - adopted, debt-bonded, trained by a master thief...), 6 = black sheep (they come from an ordinary family of farmers or craftspeople but were always the odd one out)   

Next week we'll pick our character's race and think about the equipment and tools they start out on their adventures with.

In summary

your TLQuest prompt is: pick the class and background of your character

your real world TLQ prompt is: what are your session goals?  Do they include one goal that will make Summer You feel satisfied that the time didn't dribble away unvalued by August 18th? what are your weekly goals?  

Sunday 12 May 2024

2024 Session 2: TLQuest. Week 0

 Hi everyone!  This week I'm just going to give some details about the coming session and prompt you to start thinking about session goals - we'll actually set goals next week.  As usual, EVERYONE is welcome, you don't need to play along with the prompts at all, and you are very welcome to discuss whatever you like in the chat - the prompts are just for fun (and probably, since it's me, somewhat overdone...)


  • START and set session goals - Sunday 19th May
  • Mid-session goal check in - Sunday 30th June
  • WRAP UP and report on session goals - Sunday 18th August
This is probably not a perfect fit for any schedule, but it works with our roughly one session in each four month block structure, and gives us 14 session weeks which feels like a reasonable amount to get something done.

I'm going to try & do a D&D theme.  Since it's being done by me, it's likely to be a bit verbose and possibly over-elaborate, but let's see how it goes!

For those who don't know, Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) is basically playing make-believe with friends, with dice included to vary the situations and results achieved (adding luck or chance into the world).  It's a table-top role-playing game where players each adopt a fantasy world character, and the characters embark on adventures in a world which is described by a game master or dungeon master (GM or DM).  A player might ask to do something - "Rax the Wizard is going to try and break down the door" and how they want to do it - Rax might try to use a spell to set fire to the door, or try to kick it down.  The GM will decide what kind of dice check is needed (in this case a "spell hit check" or a "strength check").  Rax' player then rolls a dice and adds or subtracts points to reflect how skilled the character is in that area (e.g. Rax is a might have a spell hit bonus of +4 and a strength bonus of -1 - wizards are usually intelligent but not very athletic - characters can't be good at everything).  They then compare that number with a pre-determined number for how strong the door is (depending on material etc.) and that determines if they succeed or fail.  If the spell hits the door, or the kick causes damage to the door not Rax, another dice is rolled to see how much damage is done.  We'll be including dice rolls in this session, but in a very simplified form!

The system of D&D can be applied in a very wide range of settings and story types, but it was originally designed for a pretty classic pseudo-medieval Europe fantasy type setting, and that's where our adventure will take place.  There are three main "elements of play" in D&D, exploring the world, social interactions with other characters in the world, and combat encounters, and I've blocked out a plan that will look at all of those things.

This week's gameplay: session zero.
In D&D, we usually start with a "session zero" in which 
  • the GM outlines the kind of adventure they're planning and any house rules (for example, a game I run for my nibling and their friends is set in a fantasy city, and the players are setting up and running a Cat Cafe which is strangely appealing to the fey, it's a light-hearted low combat game with house rules like "nobody will die" and a custom add-on "successful cake baking" system - on the other hand, the main game I currently play in is "grim-dark" - 60 years ago a rift to the Abyss opened and the world was invaded by demons.  Cinvilised communities cling on in small fortified towns where they are threatened by many challenges, and our characters are members of a hunters guild which exists to protect the towns but is also at constant risk of corruption by explosure to demonic influence (house rules provide a system for this).  We are exploring the remains of the world beyond our town, seeking out artefacts and books from before the demons arrived to help us defeat the four demon lords who currently rule our area, and protect the fishers and foragers who make sure the town has food from the demon lords and their mutated minions, as well as all the other monsters that are taking advantage of the chaos like orcs and goblins).  
  • Players talk about the kind of character they want to build for this game
  • Everyone discusses what they do and do not feel comfortable with.  There are various terms in use for this - one example is "lines and veils".   A line is something that is absolutely not included in a game - for example, maybe the group never want to encounter any mention of torture, or want their group pets to be immune from damage (the dog is NOT allowed to die!), group members are not allowed to steal from each other but they are allowed to insult each other - and a veil is something that exists in the game world, but is not interacted with in any detail by this group (e.g. there are brothels, and they might overhear gossip about who has been going there, but their adventures will never take them into a brothel)
TLQuest will begin next week as you each design your characters.  You will all be playing a character who has a reason to be travelling around and engaging with the world.  In week 3, you will all find yourselves in a roadside tavern, where you will see a noticeboard where people from the local area have posted opportunities for work, requests for help, items for sale etc., and you will decide to band together to follow up one of those opportunities.  

your TLQuest prompt is - since this is a game of make-believe and you can play any kind of character you want, what kind of character might you play this session? an idealistic young folk hero, a wizard seeking out new knowledge, a morally-grey chancer moving on from trouble, a local hunter, a treasure seeker, a mercenary travelling to their next job, a travelling bard looking for good stories, a young noble looking for adventure - so many options! (I'll also have a Roll A Dice options for character creation in coming weeks).   

"Real-world" prompt:
As we think about the coming summer, are there any lines (definite NO) and veils (things to be kept in the background) you want to impose on your plans?  Perhaps you're going to put all teaching firmly behind a veil until September, or have a clear "no new projects" line for yourself?

So, welcome to Session 2!  Introduce yourself if you want, talk about either or both prompts if you want, all are welcome

Wednesday 8 May 2024

Intercession Chat Room / Planning next session

 No one has any goals from last week, and this is not an official post, but I just thought I'd put something up so people can stop by and say hello, celebrate, moan, or whatever.

JaneB will be hosting the next session with an already identified theme, which is amazing!

Monday 29 April 2024

2024 Session 1, Week 16 THE END

 Apologies for late posting!  Through the Magic of NUSCOMI, we've made it through 16 weeks.   As we do our final check-in, what magic (good or bad) did you experience in this session?  

As always, we will reflect on both last week's goals, and session goals.   And we need volunteers for the next session. 


Pack/prepare for field school
Help student with revisions

Dame Eleanor

- Keep "working hours" of 9-12 plus a couple of hours in the afternoon, most days
- Exercise as energy allows
- Do some fun and/or restful things

heu mihi

1. Send out preliminary queries to publishers with whom I might meet at Kalamazoo
2. Host a visiting speaker on Wednesday, including multiple meals etc. and remembering to write an intro for her talk
3. Put notes from recent administrative-y conference into Teams file
4. Gen Ed review
5. Prepare for and attend abstract workshop on Thursday
6. Prepare/draft my part of a publishing workshop to take place next week (which will also shade over into my Kalamazoo roundtable)
7. Contact presenters on the panel I'm chairing with the usual reminders
8. Finish up provisional graduate student teaching schedule


** self care: Journalling, physical care through movement and food choices and Boring Stuff, care for my environment through routine tasks, adding in a couple of less routine tasks and paperwork type tasks like financial review, Physio appointment.

** Fun - read a novel, start a non-fiction book, knit/crochet, do some art, do some D&D prep, play D&D once (the game I play in rather than run is taking a week off).

** Work and boundaries - arrange next employment advisor meeting, advocate for myself and grey-rock the Interim Head of Dept check in meeting, do limited work hours (1 grad student meeting, three undergrads to meet, day on campus, feedback on a post-doc's grant application text, start marking dissertations, sort out timetabling requests for next year, try & get my computer sorted (my work computer is not working, has to go to the help desk in person so... colleague says this usually takes weeks to get sorted))

** work projects - nothing


1. Finish marking!
2. Application to funding committee
3. Library requests
4. Read at least one library request
5. Work on grant application.
6. Read colleague's book introduction for workshop
7. Meet 2 PhD students
8 Two exam preparation sessions
9. Exercise
10. Life admin: eye test, orthodontist for son, look up flights for daughter's summer plans.


1. Loose ends on Big Collaboration
2. Take time on Friday for Famous Author
3. All the adminology stuff (chair meeting, contact people, do ALL THE THINGS)
4. Do something fun (outdoor Shakespeare, other)
5. Garden: pick lemons, make juice, and maybe cake; pick grapefruit and start grapefruit-cello. Pull up weeds
6. Eat/ sleep/ move


Contingent Cassandra

--Write conference paper (due to the panel chair, if the usual patterns hold, in early March). (This is related to the study leave project, and I suspect might lead to an article, but is not one of the formal “deliverables” described in the leave proposal).

--Finish creating Omeka site to hold documents related to study leave project and begin populating it (my plan is to spend at least a bit of time on this each week, even if it’s only adding or preparing to add one document).

--Engage in some sort of purposeful movement – short or long walks, stretching, weight-lifting, stair-climbing, maybe bike-riding – at least 5 out of every 7 days (preferably more, especially if I choose one of the shorter options some days). I actually made some progress on this over the break, so here, too, I’m trying to build/maintain momentum.


2 Special Volume papers
1 revision of post-doc paper
1 small invited paper, my part is important but not huge
1 languishing-from-long-ago paper
2 internal grant applications
1 medium-sized external grant application

Dame Eleanor

- Finish off two chapters that are close to done (I think!)
- Outline a conference paper that will form the base of the least-done chapter
- Write the translation-oriented conference paper
- Make the Big MS List, with links, and engage in related correspondance
- Establish and maintain a tidy, organized study
- Plant up the new Native Plants Bed
- Detangle the grass and the sedum from each other in front bed
- Plan new course(s?) for next year
- Set up sewing machine and do some sewing

heu mihi

1. Book project: Finish draft of chapter 6; plan chapter 5; first revisions of chapters 3 and 4; finish up revisions of chapter 2 (possibly this week).
2. Conferences: One paper (due March 5), one brief and easy roundtable presentation (May).
3. Article revision--should be quick; I just want to add in a recently-read essay--due March 1.
4. Abstracts: One is drafted, due Feb. 15; one is nowhere, due April 1.
5. Health and fitness: Adjust exercise routines monthly in order to accommodate weather and daylight. Run 3-5 times/week; attempt to do some stretching before bed; one yoga class/week.


Draft and submit Squares proposal.


1) Survival and personal and environmental self-care habits - health focus, with health defined broadly
2) Fun - making sure that every week I spend quality time with at least two of the activities that refill the well.
3) Workplace Boundaries - formally agreeing appropriate accommodations, navigating a phased return which focuses on my wellbeing not the immediate needs of the school, and never going more than 20% beyond the hours I am scheduled to work by my GP (which is... hard, because even at my normal full time I do at least 50% beyond my hours in term time).
4) Care and Feeding of the research - mixed volume submission, R&R for the never-ending paper, R&R for the many author paper, senior grad students' immediate papers (Consultancy and Method), processes for three PhD students (Consortium, Northern and Exotic).


1. Teaching: write three new lectures, everything else is same as last year, so try to keep prep to a minimum.
2. Read and examine PhD for early March (4th since the summer - I tried to say no).
3. Revise and submit grant application.
4. Do some research and writing, however minimal.
5. Health & fitness: work on establishing better sleep, get as much exercise as weekly schedule allows.
6. Self-care/fun: try to make space each week for reading fiction/TV/baking/other relaxation.
7. Book holidays - Berlin trip at Easter, think about summer plans.


Goal #1: Get Big Collaboration and Famous Author out and on their way to publication.

Goal #2: Finish way very late book review of book I want to read

Goal #3: Start playing with my next project, yet unnamed, but the "Rest of my life project"

Goal #4: Keep program moving, keep working effectively with people

Goal #5: Plan next year at My Favorite Library, where I will have a research fellowship

Goal #6: Keep up with exercise and relatively healthy eating

Goal #7: Do things to have fun