Busy week, Monday

I have a busy week this week. Tomorrow I need to go into the university early to meet with the lecturer of the Image Processing course that I’m tutoring for. He will be away next week and I’m going to be delivering the lecture that week, so I need to go through the lecture material with him to make sure I cover everything properly. We also need to work out a way for me to present the slides, since last year when I did my guest lecture on the Science and Engineering of Photography I couldn’t get the university presentation system to connect to my (wife’s) Macbook.

Wednesday we have a guy coming to install our new induction cooktop and remove the old gas cooktop. (I wrote about us exploring this last year.) This is going to be a slightly complex job, because after the inspection he did a few weeks ago (which I apparently didn’t write about), the conclusion was that we need to have our entire circuitbreaker board replaced, and some new cabling run through the wall cavities. So this means the power will be off for probably a few hours, and I won’t be able to work on things like writing my ethics class lesson plans. So I need to get them done… tomorrow.

This morning I had the last three classes of the “Colonising Space” topic. The new topic for this week’s younger kids is “Psychic Powers”. Remember this is also a critical thinking class, so we’ll be exercising those skills a lot this week!

This evening I had lesson 4 in the current Creative Thinking/Game Design class. The student has converged on several game mechanic ideas for a haunted house themed game. And this is the week where I need to actually put it into a workable game design and send him a copy of the game to play by the weekend! So I need to squeeze this in somewhere this week as well.

New content today:

The Wyrm of Brandonstead, session 1

Not much to report about today, so I’ll take the chance to post the log of last week’s Dungeons & Dragons session, which I finished typing up the other day.

Before that, I’ll mention that my wife and I did our tax returns today, for the 2022-2023 financial year. Last year we didn’t do them until October, so we’re nice and early this year. It’s actually a real breeze now that the Australian Tax Office has streamlined things with their online lodgement system as of two or three years ago.

Now, D&D. This is the first session of a new adventure, which I’m calling The Wyrm of Brandonstead. It follows directly from the last session of Tomb of the Serpent Kings.


Brigette, Drashi, Garamond, Leonardo, Nogge, and Notgandalf had collected enough gold in the last outing to pay for training from their local mentors, so spent a few weeks doing this. During this time, a travelling merchant passed through town, on his way south from the village of Brandonstead. He relayed news about mysterious attacks in livestock taking place there, which rumours put down to either goblin raids or perhaps some sort of monster come down to forage from the northern mountains. The Reeve of Brandonstead has offered a reward to any brave souls who can find out what is happening and put a stop to it.

Brandonstead lies three days travel north along the river that runs through Neensford, nestled near the foothills of the mountains, which mark the end of civilised lands and the beginning of untamed wilderness. Brigette, Leonardo, and Ratter were still busy with training, so Drashi, Garamond, Nogge, and Notgandalf decided to head north to check things out, leaving the others to follow later. They resupplied with provisions, camping supplies, and consumables like torches, oil, and arrows before setting out.

The now seasoned party took with them a group of retainers for help with things such as setting up camp, standing watch, guarding supplies while the heroes venture into dungeons, and perhaps tagging along to hold torches and so on. This group of keen young followers was made up of:

  • Tarlan, a male cleric.
  • Kenrick, a male fighter.
  • Oletha, a female fighter.
  • Narelle, a female magic-user.
  • Ledwyle, a male thief.
  • Gazzuk, a male dwarf.
  • Woodlow, a male halfling.

The party agreed to pay Tarlan and Ledwyle 5sp a day, and the others 2sp a day.


The group arrived at Brandonstead after three days of eventless travel north along the river. Brandonstead is a tight cluster of about 50 old stone cottages with thatched roofs, plus two double-storey wood and plaster inns, encircled by an ancient stone wall about the height of a person. The only opening faces the road south. There is no gate, but a scrawny young guardsman leaning on a spear greeted the travellers at the gap. He was excited to meet a band of adventurers and recommended they go to the Clumsy Fox Tavern to find the village Reeve.

As they entered the Clumsy Fox, the proprietor Bentley greeted them, a jovial halfling with eyeglasses and a greying, balding head. The party ordered drinks and inquired after the Reeve. Bentley pointed them at a table where a portly mutton-chopped man was speaking with a statuesque redheaded woman in chainmail armour. They introduced themselves as Eric the village Reeve, and Hilda, captain of the town guard. Eric told them more about the attacks on the livestock.

Several sheep had been brutally killed in the past few weeks, blood and gore scattered around, mostly in the pastures just north of the village, on the edge of the forest. Not only that, but also the last regular supply wagon from Neensford was overdue by about a week. Eric said that some villagers have been whispering that it might be a dragon responsible. Whatever the truth, he offered the party 200gp if they could find who was responsible and put a stop to it, returning either heads of goblin raiders or evidence of slaying whatever monster it turned out to be. He recommended they go talk to George, the boar hunter, as he claims to have seen a beast attacking sheep.

Father William

The party went to George’s hut and knocked, but nobody was home. As they were about to leave, an old man with a long grey beard, wearing clerical vestments, came past and asked if they were looking for George. This was Father William, the village priest, who worshipped Boccob, the god of magic. He talked at length in a bit of a rant about all the problems of the village. He related the tale of Sir Brandon, who 200 years ago slew a dragon in these parts. The local king knighted him and his followers, and the village adopted Brandon’s name. Brandon and his associates were buried in a tomb in the forest north of the village.

Father William then went on a rant about Ingrid, the village alchemist, who he accused of being a witch, in league with a coven lurking in the forest, He was sure that these witches had something to do with cursing the village and killing the sheep. He also ranted about the “faeries” who lived in the forest, probably consorting with the witches. Nogge quietly suggested the “faeries” were probably just village teenagers having romantic trysts.

The Golden Egg Tavern

The party decided to check out the other inn in town, the Golden Egg Tavern. Here they met Quinn, the owner. He was a thin man with a white beard, very friendly, but suspicious of Bentley. He claimed that Bentley was stealing his best liquor from the cellar at night. He showed them his earth-walled cellar. Notgandalf cast Detect Magic to search for any magical entrances or hiding places, but found none. Quinn offered them 20gp if they could catch Bentley red-handed.

Quinn also mentioned a group of three dwarf brothers who came into town occasionally for supplies and to trade metals from their mine up north at the foothills of the mountains. But they haven’t been to town for over a week now, which is unusual.


Being mid-afternoon, the party decided to visit Ingrid the alchemist first. Ingrid turned out to be a scrawny and shy young woman who offered to sell them wolfsbane. “Good for repelling wolves!”

The party asked about Father William’s assertion of a witch coven in the woods. Ingrid laughed and said there is indeed a “witch” in the woods, but Vivian is just a harmless old lady whom she visits occasionally for afternoon tea and to make sure she’s doing okay. Ingrid also says that Vivian has lived her for decades and might have some useful information about fighting the dragon.

The party travelled a mile or so east into the forest and found Vivian’s clearing. It was full of intricately detailed topiary shrubs, pruned into the shapes of people and woodland animals. Approaching the hut in the middle, they passed by a pond. A group of nixies poked their heads out of the water and demanded they toss their weapons into the water, “otherwise the witch will turn you into shrubberies!” Notgandalf tossed in a spare dagger to appease them, and then Vivian emerged from her hut and shooed the nixies away, inviting the adventurers in for some tea.

Vivian looked like a witch, with frizzy grey hair and bulging eye, dressed in an old-fashioned frilly dress. She served tea in her kitchen-lounge, which was decorated with overstuffed, quilted furniture and had a rack of gardening tools on the wall. She talked enthusiastically about her topiaries and told them not to mind the nixies.

Asked about the monster attacks and any other strange goings on, Vivian said it was unusual the dwarves hadn’t been to town for a while. She said she likes the oldest brother, Grimni, and the other brothers are named Brol and Kedri. She thought the attacks could be a dragon, and that the heroes might be able to use the sap of a grove of unusual trees in the western woods across the river, which had a powerful soporific effect. But the trees were guarded by fae fauns and the party should be wary of them.

As they left, Vivian asked if they’d lost anything to the nixies. She called them off and Notgandalf waded into the pond to retrieve his dagger, and also found a plain sword in a jewelled scabbard, which Vivian let him keep.

George the hunter

Returning to the village, the party revisited George’s house, where he was at home. George had wild red hair and beard, and was missing his left arm. He said he was out hunting wild boar. A few days ago he was returning to the village when he spotted the dragon attacking some sheep. A scaly black monster the size of a couple of horses, squat to the ground on splayed legs, drooling horrible spittle everywhere. He intervened and the dragon turned on him, He shoved his arm down its throat to avoid it taking his head, and it bit off his arm. He said the caustic spittle somehow stopped it bleeding, and Ingrid helped him with some healing herbs. He tried hitting the beast but his weapons bounced off tough scales on its back and it slithered away back into the northern forest. He suspects it must have a lair up near the mountains.

The Golden Egg, part 2

With the sun going down, the party returned to the Golden Egg. With Quinn’s permission, they decided to stake out the cellar, taking turns to keep watch, with the retainers standing guard on the ground floor above. In the middle of the night, during Garamond’s watch, the cellar door at the top of the stairs clicked open and soft footsteps moved down. Garamond could not see anything in the dark with infravision, and roused Drashi, who also didn’t see anything. They both saw a flask of liquor lifting up into the air and tipping over, with a sound of drinking. Drashi decided to launch a tackle at the invisible thief. He crashed into and grabbed the thief, who became visible, a leprechaun!

The leprechaun begged to be freed, and said his name was Naggeneen. He offered his pot of gold for his freedom. The party had the retainers roused Quinn to come down, who was surprised to see the booze thief was a leprechaun and not his rival innkeeper Bentley. Quinn negotiated with Naggeneen, saying he’d free the leprechaun if he could have the pot of gold and Naggeneen agreed to go steal liquir from Bentley’s inn instead. Naggeneen agreed, then laughed when Drashi let him go, saying his pot of gold was hidden in the ruined castle a few miles north of Brandonstead, and the castle was now overrun with goblins! He said, “Good luck!” and vanished.

Quinn agreed to pay the heroes the 20gp he had offered them to solve his problem. He also said that if they happened to visit the ruined castle, he would gladly give them a tenth of anything in what was now his pot of gold.

Sir Brandon’s Tomb

The next morning, they sought Father William at the church of Boccob, to get directions to Sir Brandon’s Tomb. A statue of Sir Brandon stood behind the small church building. Father William mentioned that Brandon had been buried with his magical dragon-slaying sword, and that he had sent his initiate, Brother Dirk, to the tomb yesterday to see if he could retrieve the sword, but Dirk had not returned.

Armed with directions to Sir Brandon’s Tomb, the party followed the east bank of the river north towards the mountains before cutting inland after about three miles towards a visible hillock among the trees. Here they found Brandon’s tomb, accessed by a white stone slab set into the hillside as a door. A faded mural was painted on the door, showing a conquering knight. The earth around the door was disturbed, showing recent passage of someone through it. The party decided to offer the cleric Tarlan hazard pay to accompany them inside, while the other retainers stood guard outside.

The five of them opened the door and entered a chamber decorated with wall mosaics. The first depicted Brandon and three other figures: a shaggy giant of a man with a greatsword, a wizened old priest, and a wild-eyed man with an axe. The second mural showed Brandon skewering a great black dragon with his sword through its mouth and up into its head. The third showed Brandon and his men being knighted by a queen.

Footprints in the earthen floor revealed a trail leading to a passage in the west, then back towards another opening in the east, from where the party could hear sounds clattering and hushed voices. Tarlan said he recognised goblin language, and it sounded like they were arguing. The group sneaked to the eastern opening with torches held back. They spotted four goblins squabbling and poking around in various crypt alcoves around the room. Notgandalf used the element of surprise to cast a Magic Missile at one, knocking it dead! Garamond loosed a brace of arrows, but both missed their targets. Reacting, the goblins immediately surrendered and begged for their lives. The party called the attack off.

With Tarlan interpreting, the goblins said they had been looking for a new hideout, but a number of them had been lost downstairs, and now they were just looking for loot before fleeing. The goblins warned the party not to move a heavy stone which they had used to block one of the crypt alcoves, saying there was a slimy monster behind it. They also wanted to accompany the party until they could get out safely.

Lower level

The party, with Tarlan and the goblins, took a northward passage out of the crypt room. Stairs led down and turned west, opening into a long corridor decorated with carvings of trees and woodland animals. At the foot of the stairs were the bodies of three goblins, torn to shreds and splattered all over the floor and lower walls. The goblins shrieked in fear.

A chittering noise could be heard form the long corridor to the west. The party decided to explore a passage to the south first, finding a room with a circular dais supporting a 3-foot tall nude clay statue of a may with antlers and two offering bowls, in which coins glinted. Making a circle on the floor around the dais were ten equispaced black stones. Another passageway led west.

The party considered their options…


20 gold coins – from Quinn for catching his booze thief.

Game trivia: Only 5 die rolls in 4 hours of play!

New content today:

Swapping my mother’s email

This morning I was home alone with Scully because my wife went to the community garden again. She brought home more green leafy vegetables, and celery and coriander.

After a quick lunch we headed out for the drive to my mother’s place, a bit over an hour away up the coast. I’d set up a new Gmail account for her and now I had to go up there to set up a mail client on their machine and port across all their email. This turned out to be a lot easier than I expected for two reasons: (1) they were using a webmail client, so I just showed them how to use Gmail from the browser. And (2) they didn’t have the expected hundreds of emails saved that required porting across. It seems they have an old-fashioned approach of deleting everything once it’s read, so I only had to transfer less than 10 messages. The simplest thing was simply to forward them to the new address. Then I set up a bookmark for Gmail, and gave them the password on a piece of paper, and we were done.

We had an afternoon tea with some pastries that my mother had bought from a shop nearby. We didn’t stay long though, and headed back home so we could catch the final Matildas game in the FIFA Women’s World Cup, the 3rd place playoff match.

In between all this I typed up the adventure log notes from last week’s Dungeons & Dragons session. I forgot the sequence of events in a couple of places, but was saved by the detailed notes that one of my players took, which he photographed and sent to me.

For dinner tonight we made pizza. With community garden leafy greens. And pumpkin and walnuts.

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Ramping up running and bird warnings

This morning I did the grocery run, picking up my online order. Normally I select fruit and vegetables by hand, rather than add them to the online order. Today I just got fruit, no vegetables, because we have so many vegetables still at home thanks to my wife doing community gardening and bringing home a lot of things. Her last haul included lemongrass, which I used tonight in a Thai green curry, along with some leafy greens and snow peas also from the garden (plus onion, carrot, and broccoli).

I had 4 ethics classes. I’m really enjoying the topic on “Colonising Space”, which I’ve structured around Kim Stanley Robinson’s Red Mars trilogy. It’s nice because going through the major story beats in each book lead to a series of interesting questions for the kids.

Before lunch I did a 5k run. I’ve been feeling pretty good after 2.5k runs lately and thought I should try to do longer ones a bit more. I think I want to try extending to 10k at some point soonish.

At lunch I picked up Scully from my wife’s work. Before heading home we stopped at a cake shop where I grabbed a slice of very nice cheesecake. Scully got a tiny taste.

Tonight is online board games night with my friends. I won our first two games already: Applejack, and Jump Drive. I’m typing this up in pauses between taking my turns in other games.

Yesterday while having my sushi lunch up at the shops, I was sitting in the small plaza/park in the middle of the shopping area. It’s a nice area with two small patches of grass.

Ernest Place

And here’s a shot showing the left patch of grass a bit more.

Ernest Place

Professor Plum’s there is the science toy shop where they have the Dungeons & Dragons games on Saturday nights. I didn’t go up last weekend to check it out because that night Australia was playing in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. Anyway, the reason I took these photos was to show you the size of this area before telling you the fact that it has over 20 large signs warning people not to feed the birds.

Do not feed birds sign

And if you think that sign is ominous, look at this one:

Do not feed birds sign

The problem here is definitely the people who feed the birds. Magpies get habituated to the handouts and get aggressive, divebombing people and snatching food from their hands. They won’t do that if they aren’t used to getting handouts.

New content today:

Five-class Thursday

Having moved all my Tuesday ethics classes to Thursday to make room for the university image processing course, I now have five classes to teach on Thursdays, beginning from today. Two in the morning first thing, and three in the evening, ending late. This gives me some time in the middle of the day to do a few other things, which I filled by taking Scully for a couple of walks, getting sushi rolls for lunch, making a sourdough loaf, and doing a bit of comics stuff.

Time to relax before bed….

New content today:

Tuesday teaching and Wednesday football

I missed my update yesterday because I was busy at the University of Technology Sydney at my first class for the semester on this year’s course on Image Processing. I missed the first class last week due to thinking it was on Thursday, but after moving my ethics classes from Tuesday to Thursday I made sure to make it this week. The class is packed, with about 200 students in the lecture room, definitely more than last year. Which I’ll take as a god sign that it’s a popular class.

Today I worked on my lesson plans for this week’s new ethics topics: Colonising Space for the 10-12 year olds, and Government for the 13-15 year olds. I competed those, and also went out for a nice lunch with my wife at a local Greek restaurant. Then tonight it was the first three space colony classes.

A question I asked during the class: Can colonising space benefit all of humanity and not just the wealthy who get to travel to new worlds, leaving poor people behind on an Earth troubled by wars or environmental disasters? I was surprised by a few students saying that it’d actually be good for the poor people to get rid of the wealthy elite! Anyway, it seems to be a good topic and we had a lot of fun discussing it.

And now straight after those classes we’re into the FIFA Women’s World Cup semi-final, Australia v England. I’m typing this at half time, with England up 1-0. It’s going to be a very tense second half, needing to come equalise and then try to find a lead somehow.

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Game design theme: haunted house

This morning I taught the last three lessons of the “Ethical Consumerism” topic with the younger kids.

Then for lunch I took Scully for a walk to the fish & chip shop and we sat on the hill lookout spot watching the dark grey clouds looming over the city.

Grey day over Sydney

This evening I had the third class in the current course on Creative Thinking and Game Design. After brainstorming ideas last week we’ve converged on “exploring a haunted house” as the theme of the game. We brainstormed some possible goals, including escaping the house, or trying to find a specific item, or even being scientists and trying to photograph ghosts. And we also worked on some potential mechanics, including one using sliding board tiles to represent shifting rooms in the house.

Next week we’ll out the pieces together and try to make a workable game out of these ideas.

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A new French bakery!

The only real event of note today was that we went for a short drive across the harbour to Surry Hills, where there is a bakery that my wife wanted to visit. It turns out it’s the bakery that had the stall at the French market a few weeks ago, where I got the chocolate Parisian flan. It’s called Tonton Bread.

We parked a few blocks away, because parking in that area of the city is horrendous, and walked over with Scully. It’s a small hole-in-the-wall type of establishment, with two tiny cafe tabes outside on the footpath, one of which was miraculously free when we arrived. So we sat and enjoyed an almond and apricot croissant, and a pain aux raisins. The croissant was truly amazing, one of the best pastries I’ve ever had. The apricot was in the form of blobs of a thick jam-like substance, but not as sweet as jam, which was good because the rest of the croissant was. It was really more like mashed fresh apricots. So good. As we left I also got a cinnamon twist to take home for dessert tonight.

Otherwise, I did some comics stuff, and three ethics classes this evening. The weather has turned a bit greyer and colder and will apparently be this way for a few days.

New content today:

A tale of two nights, two games

Friday was Dungeons & Dragons night! We started a new adventure, beginning with news from a small town to the north near the mountains that mark the edge of civilised lands and the beginning of the wilds. Something had been taking and killing sheep, and the town reeve offered a reward for anyone brave enough to find out what and deal with it.

The group was a little depleted (due to some player absences), but set forth and scoped out the town of Brandonstead. They met many of the local residents, including a reclusive “witch” who lived in the woods. After gathering information they determined that the heroic Sir Brandon had slain a dragon nearby 200 years ago, and that somehow perhaps the dragon may have returned, or at least something like it. Sir Brandon’s dragon-slaying sword was buried with him in a barrow near the foot of the mountains, so they set out to retrieve it. They found a group of goblins inside the tomb, and some dismembered goblin bodies…

And there we paused for the night, to pick up next time.

Today I worked on some more comics stuff. After lunch my wife and I went for a walk with Scully, to the homewares complex where I got the quote from for installation of an induction cooktop. We decided to go ahead and buy one and book a date for installation. It’s set for Wednesday 23 August, so we’re into our last fortnight of cooking with gas.

Tonight was the quarter-final match between Australia and France in the FIFA Women’s World Cup. We knew this was going to be the toughest match so far. The game started at 5pm. I asked my wife if I should start cooking dinner during the half time break (when the score was 0-0) or wait until the end of the game. She asked when it would end, and I said before 7pm, so she said wait until it’s over.

I didn’t start cooking until after 8pm. So we had a very late dinner. But it felt good after playing out a 0-0 draw and then going to a long and tense, see-sawing penalty shootout that lasted 10 shots each team. But Australia held out for the win and we now go through to a semi-final against the winner of England v Colombia (currently in progress).

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Kondoing the bookshelves

This morning I had the first older student ethics lesson on Probability. Unfortunately only one student turned up, and that’s always a bit challenging because we end up going through all the questions a lot faster, especially if the student isn’t very talkative. I ran out about 5 minutes before the end and had to wing it by making up some more questions on the fly.

At lunch today I took Scully on a walk around to one of the local cafes where I had lunch. Last time I had the “Ultimate Sandwich” and chose the pulled pork option. But they also have a grilled chicken option, which I tried today.

Ultimate sandwich, grilled chicken edition

Yeah, that’s pretty ultimate. I did actually manage to fold the bread roll and encase most of the filling and eat it with my hands like a sandwich, but there were a few chunks of chicken and salad that fell out. It was good, but I think I slightly prefer the pulled pork version.

After lunch I dedicated a couple of hours to cleaning up the bookcases. They’ve been needing a proper dusting for a while, which is a chore I always put off because we have a lot of random little knickknacks and stuff on most of the shelves in front of the books, so it’s tedious. But I also had a pile of new roleplaying game books sitting on my desk that needed to be shelved, and I had to rearrange some things to fit them in. So I bit the bullet and tackled the job.

I went through everything on the shelves and tossed out some old stuff that I’ve never really used and couldn’t foresee a use for. Also some random things like the polystyrene spheres I used for this Proof that the Earth is a Globe. I also had about 20 card boxes full of plastic card sleeves just taking up space, which I moved to a large storage box to reduce the clutter. I moved some loose art supplies into the art supply box. And so on.

I found a large, folded-up sheet of paper. When I unfolded it, this is what I found:

Wave Echo Cave

It’s an artefact from when I ran The Lost Mine of Phandelver adventure for my Dungeons & Dragons group, back in 2017. We drew a large map of Wave Echo Cave as we played. I decided to throw it out, but I took this photo first to have a memory of it.

Tonight for dinner I bought a bunch of fresh basil from the corner store while taking Scully for her evening walk. I made pesto with that, a garlic clove, toasted pine nuts, grated pecorino (I know, but I’d run out of Parmigiano Reggiano), and extra-virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. We had it on penne pasta and it was really good.

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