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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!