Hey Hey, My My! Think I’ll Eat A Slice Of Pie.

…I think Neil would go for that.

The Doclopedia #291

After The Change Came: Of Wizards & Mages

You folks on the Moon, lacking Magic as you do, have a bit of confusion about the differences between Wizards and Mages. This piece is going to help you out with that.

At the basic level, it boils down to two main points: the amount of magical power they can control and how “normal” they act. Believe me, while there are some strange behaving Mages out there, they aren’t anywhere near as peculiar as the average Wizard.

So, Wizards wield enormous magical power, especially when they work in groups, which they often do. Wizards can raise and lower mountains, turn a desert into a lake, shrink a 300 foot long dragon down to the size of a mouse or bring an extinct species back to life using whatever living animals they choose (most of the dinosaurs alive today are the spawn of chickens turned into dinosaurs 11 years ago). Wizards can teleport, read minds, control the weather and do all manner of other miraculous things. They are almost totally immune to poisons, disease or other things that kill mere humans. They also will live at least another 2 or 3 centuries.

And they are all screwy as a Daffy Duck cartoon. How so, you ask?

Before the Change, they were almost all writers (especially science fiction or fantasy), artists, actors, game designers, comedians, scientists or, oddly, librarians. Some of them had been dead for several decades. After the change they were all a bunch of rather hippie looking young folks who wore outrageous clothing, had wildly colored skin/hair/eyes and adopted new names like “Wizard Bongo Longo” or “Wizard Kilimanjaro” or “Wizard Trixie Pixie” or “The Wizard With No Name”. Now, I have spent much of my life hanging out with gaming and science fiction geeks (including several of the Wizards before the Change), so I’m pretty well acquainted with strange and idiosyncratic people. Wizards win the gold medal in that competition.

Which is not to say that Wizards aren’t nice folks, because they are, but you can’t go expecting a whole lot of normal behavior from them. They do things their way and you have to adapt to it.

One last thing about Wizards: when they are in their Wizardly realm (some sort of pocket universe, I’m told) they live in Wizard Time, which is way different from our good old dependable time. The first time I was summoned before a group of Wizards to discuss how I was going to mediate a peaceful end to a war between Orks and Weerloos, I spent two hours in wizard time. When they teleported me home, I found that I had been gone seven minutes. My next visit to Wizard Time, I was there for a day and a half, but when I got home, I found that four days had passed. A friend of mine went to Wizard Time for six hours and came home an hour before she left! Not wanting to cause a paradox, she snuck out her back door until she left, then went home. So, Wizard Time is just as strange as the Wizards are.

Mages are nowhere near as strange as Wizards, although there are some doozies out there. Most Mages dress in a fairly normal manner, although they all seem to like wearing hats and brightly colored sneakers. They live in our regular time, but their homes are often pretty odd looking. My best friend’s boyfriend is a Mage and his house looks like a giant cheeseburger. Inside, it is mostly decorated in what I like to call “Early American Diner”.

Mages have much less power that Wizards, but even so, they usually know a dozen or so fairly powerful spells. One of our local Mages specializes in both Healing spells and Reshaping spells. She makes a pretty good living healing people and reshaping raw materials into whatever form you’d like. She fashioned all of the oddly shaped windows (and their frames) that my wife and I have in our home.

Mages have a high resistance to poisons and diseases, but only a slightly greater than normal healing factor where injuries are concerned. Most of them wil probably live 150 years or so. Almost all of them have familiars with whom they can communicate and draw certain powers from.

While many of the New Races have some magical abilities, only a few of them can match the versatility and power of Mages. The only ones who even approach Wizard level power are Green Ladies (when they act together) and, if she really exists, the Faerie Queen.

I hope this piece has answered some of your questions and I’ll see you back here in the Times next week.

Immoral Skinks Messed With My Rutabagas

…and in the end, corrupted them

Ok, kids, today we start a series of Doclopedia entries that tie in with my fiction blog.

The Doclopedia #290

After The Change Came: The First Year

From a series of articles by Mr. Robert “Doc” Cross, that appeared in the Times of Luna in 2000.

It has been just over a year since Magic came (returned?) to the planet Earth and, for those first 5 days, to the Moon. I have been asked by Ms. Kohladi, the editor of this fine publication, to write a few words about both my own experiences when the Change came and the general effects Magic had upon the world.

To begin with, the quick story of where I was when that first Wave hit.

My wife (Grace) and I, plus a recently adopted Basset Hound puppy (Roscoe) and white American Longhair kitten (Lily), were camping in the back country of Glacier National Park. It was our last night there before moving on to the big GenCon gaming convention in Milwaukee on Labor Day weekend, which was happening at the same time as the Chicago World Science Fiction Convention. Some people think that having that much geekery in one part of the world is what brought magic back, but I’m not one of them.

We were just drifting off to sleep when we heard and felt a strange noise all around us. It was like a very quiet and sped up version of somebody popping bubble wrap. Then our skin began to tingle. Grace and I sat up and exclaimed the same profanity, Roscoe began whining, Lily started to meow and things got very strange very quickly.

I could see Grace, whom I was facing, but I could also see myself from her vantage point, both of us and Roscoe from Lily’s point of view on Grace’s shoulder and a similar view from Roscoe’s position on my side. This all happened very quickly, but during that time I could see my wife’s skin turning green, my own hair turning a bold metallic red, my eyes turning yellow and we could all hear each other’s thoughts, which can be summed up as “What the hell?”

I’m told that the First Wave lasted all of 30 seconds, but it sure seemed a whole lot longer to us. When it was over, my wife was a Green Lady, I was a Mutant who could speak with any creature that had an advanced enough language and Roscoe & Lily had gained intelligence equal to Grace and I, plus the ability to speak via telepathy. Plus, Grace & I were 20 years old again and pretty weirded out. Happy, but still weirded out.

The odd thing was that we, and in fact nobody on Earth, panicked. This was in part due to everybody having gained knowledge of what they were now (for example, Grace knew everything there was about being a Green Lady), but it also helped that the Wizards popped into our heads a few minutes later and told us what was going on. That part went pretty much like this…

“We are the Wizards of Earth and we want to give you a quick rundown of what just happened. Magic has come to the Earth and most of the Human race, as well as many of the more common animals, have been affected. Many of the races and creatures of myth, legend and story are now real. Some people can cast spells, some are mutants who possess a single magical power and some are just plain humans. We also made all of you over the age of thirty 20 years old again, so as to have a nice young population. We’ll tell you more in the coming days, but until then, just go on about your business and welcome to an exciting new world.”

Not exactly the detailed report most of us would have liked, but it did have a very reassuring effect, so the four of us, at least, went back to sleep.

After hiking back to our pickup truck the next day, we started driving to Milwaukee as we had planned. We stopped at the first gas station we came to for fuel and to make phone calls. We found out that most of our family members had become gnomes, with the exception of those who had become giants or Mages (or, in the case of my cousin Wendy, a witch) or centaurs or other New Races or the few that remained human, but everybody seemed to be ok.

Over the course of the next week, we also learned that…

A whole lot of humans turned into gnomes. On the order of a billion, to be exact. And when they breed (just the one time for most couples) they have from 4 to 6 babies. My
mom recently gave birth to 5 babies, 3 boys and 2 girls. This massive increase in the gnomish population is offset by the fact that they don’t hit sexual maturity until they are about 25, they will seldom live past 60 and only about a third of them will reproduce. Still, that’s a hell of a lot of gnomes. Good thing they are so darned happy, friendly and productive.

The Magic had an influence that included the Moon, so the Wizards had got to work building huge domes and L5/L4 colonies and…well, I guess you folks know all that. Suffice it to say that before the Magic retreated back to just covering the Earth and a bit beyond our atmosphere, Luna went from a population of 32 at the International Moon Base to a population of 6,000,000, counting the colonies and the various space stations.

Much of what built the lunar colony up came from the great cities and other human constructs here on Earth. The wizards just recycled all of the materials from cities, dams, military bases, vehicles, etc into nicely separated piles of raw materials, then used those to make what they needed. After they were done with the Moon, they rebuilt things here on Earth where, I should point out, the human population went from 6 billion to about 750 million. Even with all of that building and stuff, there are still huge piles of materials from steel to concrete to wood to glass sitting in thousands of warehouses just waiting to be used.

While science is still with us, much technology has been changed or just rendered impossible. Computers are now organic and alive. Nuclear weapons are gone and even if you could build one, it wouldn’t work. Petroleum products are limited and will eventually disappear entirely, but solar power is much more efficient and cheaper than ever before. Cars are still around, but most folks travel by bus locally or train for longer distances. If you need to go where trains or buses can’t go, you can travel by airship, Wizard Portal, teleporting (if you are brave), seagoing ship or, just recently, the new solar powered airplanes. Sorry, no jets, but if you are on good terms with a Dragon, they might give you a lift.

The Wizards have cleaned up the environment and restored many ecosystems, including the restoration of thousands of extinct or endangered species…including dinosaurs in some limited areas. A ban on most ocean fishing still has 4 years to go, at which point most fish populations will be booming. In most areas on land, the enchanted borders (Ring Roads) of Towns & Cities are mostly there to keep out large predators. In California, where I live, that is mostly the recently not extinct California Grizzly Bears, which are huge and always hungry. Awe inspiring to look at, but I’m glad they can’t come roaming through my back yard.

As you might expect, with fewer humans around, things like government, the military and religions took a big hit. Truth to tell, most of them just collapsed. Like gardening, politics was always local and it became truly local after the Change when most Cities and Towns were created. The need for a Big Daddy government just wasn’t there. Oh sure, here in the US we still have a President, Congress and Supreme Court, but they don’t really have much power. Mostly, they just meet for a couple of months and ask people what we think they ought to do. By and large, we encourage them to create National Parks or overturn laws that either don’t apply anymore or everybody ignores.

As for religion, in some areas the religious fundamentalists that still survived rejected the entire Change as the work of Satan or America or some other thing they could point a finger at. Because of this, there are places in the southern United States, Arabic Africa and Eastern Europe where the fundies took over entire Cities and drove out everyone who wasn’t a “normal human”. They reject Magic and pray a lot and mostly do not trade with the rest of the world. The Wizards, having a wicked sense of humor and not a whole lot of sympathy for fools, often appear in these Cities and do a bit of magical mischief. The fundies hate that.

There isn’t much need for a military when folks can band together to fight a threat on the local or regional level. It also helps that such threats are very rare. As in, so far, none.

The single biggest thing to change the world was the one two punch of the New World Wide Web and the new worldwide (worldswide, I should say, since you Loonies also use it) monetary system. I’ll write a whole piece on the NWWW and computers, but let’s talk about how the manure hit the fan when actual money went away.

As you know, at the start of the fiscal year (on Change Day, August 29) everybody gets their monetary account reset to 100,000 credits. No more, no less. Spend all that in a month or two and you are seriously hosed. But then, that would be very hard to do, since housing is cheap or even free and if you have no food, your neighbors will feed you. Oh, you need to EARN money, because in a couple of more years, things will reset so you only receive what you earned the year before…except that you still can’t have more that 100K in your account on August 29th. Additionally, we all given up 5% to the General Fund, which covers all the things taxes used to, like infrastructure repairs and such. All this is still driving the few remaining Libertarians nuts, which is pretty fun to watch…almost as much fun as watching the few remaining Republicans in elected office looking for rich people to suck up to or a war to start.

Earning money is pretty easy. The internet and our computer guides are making it easy for anybody to write and sell books, games, movies, music, television series, etc. You can also sell other items easily by advertising on the Net. My mother, who is a Gardener Gnome, has just started up a seed selling website and in the first month has earned 3,500 credits. Nowadays, everyone is an entrepreneur, which is is why there are so few large companies. Why buy your hamburger from some chain when there are plenty of small local food vendors? Ditto clothing, tools, whatever.

One last note on money: Aside from gnomes, house elves and a few other races, most of the New Races do not need or want money, they trade for what they need or, in the cases of the more savage races, take it by force. An example of this trading would be the fact that I recently traded 5 dozen duck eggs for a couple of cases of Trollish beer. Both of us got a good deal and went away happy. Such trades happen every day

In future articles, I’ll go into more depth on some of the subjects I touched on in this one. I hope you enjoy them.

Spice…The Final Frontier

…is that a foodie thing or just an Aussie quoting Star Trek?

Oh, look, the final entry for Things Found Underground. Starting tomorrow: After The Change Came, which ties in with the fiction blog.

Oh, wait, there might just be a couple of bonus Things Found Underground when the entries get put up on my website. I do it outta love, you know.

The Doclopedia #289

Things Found Underground: Secret Headquarters

Ok, ok…fair point. Why should you let Pinelli Brothers build your secret headquarters and why build underground? First question first…

My brothers and I are fourth generation contractors whose family has been specializing in secret headquarters since 1880. Right there, you’ve got over a century of experience. Why, you can barely name a famous hero or villain that we haven’t done work for! And we’ve worked all over the world, too. Every continent and on or below the surface of most of the oceans and your larger lakes. We can get the job done to your specifications and done on time, my friend. You think Federovich and that bunch of thugs of his can do that? Guess again!

And speaking of old Piotr, did you know that he uses labor from all over Eastern Europe? Why, half of those mugs can not only speak English, they can read and write! You don’t want that kind of security breach waiting to happen. Oh sure, you can have them taken care of, but I’ll promise you that they’ll only kill about a third of them, then charge you $200.00 a head for the lot of them!

Now here at Pinelli Brothers, we use only non-English speaking illiterates from Africa and Asia. We treat ’em well, feed ’em well and pay ’em well. When the job’s done, we send ’em home with a pocket full of cash and the next time we go hiring, they line up to sign up. In over a hundred years of business, we’ve never had a security breach. Federovich can’t say that, as Doctor Darkness would tell you if he weren’t locked up in an ultramax prison.

Now, why build underground? Two main reasons: cost and security. Yeah, those fancy islands and dead volcanoes and mountaintop castles look cool, but the land costs money and even the best security can’t cover everything. Why, just look at The Green Golem. That secret island fortress of his was well hidden and pretty sweet…until that 9.2 earthquake and the 65 foot tsunami. After that, it was just so much flooded wreckage.

But underground, the weather is never a problem. No wildfires, curious tourists, highway construction projects…Christ, did that ever piss off Satanicus…or other threats. Earthquakes? Not unless you build in the wrong places, and we do extensive testing before we start any project.

And the cost? Pretty much freakin’ free! No kidding, right now there are five different secret headquarters under London alone, and we could build 50 more! New York? I’ve lost count. You pick the spot or we help you and my friend, we can start right in building.

We use only the best building materials, including some pretty bleeding edge stuff. See that stuff right there? Looks like a thin sheet of glass, right? Wrong! It’s a new diamond based substance that’s almost impossible to break.

Now let’s run some numbers here and see what we can come up with.

She Was Dangerous, In A Slightly Too Cute Way

…and she had those big green eyes

The Doclopedia #286

Things Found Underground: Jump Gates

Nobody knows who or what built the 7 Jump Gates that exist on Earth 16, no why they built them underground on the exact spots where great cities would someday sit. Still, there they are, very well hidden 500 feet down, but still functioning after an estimated 7,500 years.

Each Jump Gate connects to some spot on Earth, usually in a remote area. The location in space never varies, but the location in time can vary by up to 10 days either forward or backwards. Unfortunately, there is no way to predict this effect. Even more unfortunately, it is impossible to go back to your proper time unless you go into the past and just hang out until time catches up. (Note: Do not EVER go try to communicate with your past self. This will always result in the time traveling you popping out of existence.)

If you should go into the future, then you just lose that many days. This can cause all sorts of problems from the minor (missed the season finale of you favorite tv program) to the serious (you went missing for ten days just before your 20th anniversary) to the catastrophic (you weren’t there to enter the shutdown code when your tacyonic power generator went critical and turned New York city into a smoldering crater).

When using a Jump Gate, remember to dress in an appropriate manner for your destination. Don’t wear winter clothing if the gate takes you to the Australian Outback.

All Jump Gates look the same and function the same. They are 20′ wide12 ‘ tall ovals of stone and metal set into a cavern wall. You simply touch it with your hand, wait until it shows an image of your destination and then step through. Several people and/or animals and/or machines can pas through, since the gate remains open for a full minute. Of course, getting a bunch of people, animals or machines 500 feet underground might be a tricky thing.

It is rumored that there is an 8th Jump Gate that can be programmed to take one anywhere on Earth with no temporal drift. So far, it has not been found.

The Doclopedia #287

Things Found Underground: God Skulls

Ork Smart Ones say this about God Skulls…

“God Skulls am big! Really big! Big like a human stone hut where many humans and animals live. Large Ork standing in eye hole of God Skull cannot touch top of eye hole. God Skulls very scary to Orks! Four big horns on skull…big sharp teeth…sometimes three or four eyes! SCARY! God Skulls also have much bad magic! Orks stay away from God Skulls! If Ork find God Skulls when inside caves, Orks run away fast!”

The following entry uses another definition of “underground”.

The Doclopedia #288

Things Found Underground: Lost Belmoria

In the year 2035, there are many lost cyberworlds out there in the Net. Some are old game worlds that were transformed by rogue AIs before the Seattle Limits were put into effect and some are fully formed places that came out of illegal reality seed programs. The Tempest Institute estimates that there could be as many as 150 of these well hidden and isolated cyberworlds out there.

By far, the most sought after cyberworld is Belmoria, the reality created by Dr. David Lupinski. Based upon a fantasy roleplaying world that he and his friends created over a 30 year period, it is said to be both the largest and the most “real” cyberworld. The former would come from the fact that, in 2027, Lupinski purchased enough servers to house a world 1,500 times the size of the MMORPG QuestWorld, which itself, if real, would be the size of North America. The “reality” of Belmoria comes from the fact that the initial programing places no prohibition on the sense of smell and does not restrict any other senses. Because of this, anyone plugging into Belmoria would soon begin accepting it as truly real, meaning that once they were unplugged from it, they would go insane.

On February 11th, 2030, Dr. Lupinski and 45 other people were found dead of barbiturate overdose in his home in Omaha, Nebraska. They had all been hooked up to an illegal NetPort at the time of death. The NetPort was destroyed by a thermite bomb just after FBI agents burst into the home. The agents were unable to retrieve anything of importance, since the thermite bomb ignited others in the house and the whole place was turned to ash in a matter of minutes.

The hunt for the Belmoria server farm continues, but even if it is found, Belmoria will go on because several of Dr. Lupinksi’s friends also bought servers between 2027 and 2029.

Chapter 356: In Which Our Hero Rides Off To War Alongside His Trusty Friends Mick And Georgie

…and, of course, the dog known only as “Spanky”

The Doclopedia #285

Things Found Underground: Pink Blobs

On the planet Korrs, (an unremarkable world of deserts, grasslands, shallow seas and low mountains) mining explorers have found a very interesting new life form: the Pink Blobs. These 50 to 100 pound light pink globs of goo can only exist between 200 and 900 feet below the surface of the grasslands. They seem to be very intelligent and are friendly to most other creatures. They tend to smell like vanilla.

They also seem to be able to draw out all toxins from the human body.

This was discovered when a miner dying from the bite of a veeth spider was suddenly engulfed by a Pink Blob. His friends could not remove the blob, but when it oozed off of him a couple of minutes later, he was perfectly fine and a mediscan showed no trace of any toxin, including the rum he had been drinking just before the spider bite took place.

Trial and error lead to the miner’s discovering the Pink Blob’s powers. Within a year, the Korrian Treatment Clinic opened for business. It is a high class place located 400 feet underground. Everybody seems to like it. The patients get cleansed & healthy, the former miners are getting rich and the Pink Blobs get to eat lots of yummy toxins. It’s a win all the way around.

The Ten Blue Budgies Build A Secret Headquarters

…in an oak tree in the back yard

WooHoo! Another Doclopedia post!

The Doclopedia #284

Things Found Underground: Kobold Spears

Kobold Spears are among the finest of weapons. Crafted lovingly from a secret formula for steel that only the Deep Dwarves know, these spears fly true when thrown and penetrate deeply when they hit. Due to the small size of kobolds, humans and elves use these spears more like over sized darts, once they have coated the points in some deadly poison.

The best quality Kobold Spears often cost more than a full suit of fine chainmail, and even the poorest quality spears (which are made by the Horragan Forest kobolds and still of a very good quality) fetch high prices.

Of course, one could just try raiding a kobold warren, but that would mean facing many hundreds of Kobold Spears, so perhaps it’s better to try bargaining.