the tree grove


Spent the weekend roaming the redwoods, lush with green from El Niño’s rain.

Redwood National Park, CA. March 2016. (Instagram)


Mariposa Grove of Giant Sequoias in Yosemite National Park, at Sunset


If you listen hard enough you can hear every living thing breathing together, you can feel everything growing. We’re all livin’ together, even if most folks don’t act like it. We all have the same roots, and we are all branches of the same tree.

The first and last woman to be hanged in New Mexico was 19-year-old Paula Angel. The crime which led her to the gallows was “as old as Eden.” On 23 March, 1861, Angel stabbed her lover, Miguel Martin, to death. Martin was a married man and a father of five who had been having an affair with Angel behind his wife’s back. Seemingly bored with the affair, Martin decided he would call it off. Within a day, Angel was apprehended for the murder and her trial was held just five days later. After being found guilty, she was sentenced to hang the following month. Her time in jail was short and torturous. It was reported that the sheriff taunted her daily by reminder her how many days she had left on earth.

As the execution date rolled around, Angel was told to sit on top of her coffin in the back of the wagon as they drove to the spot she would be killed - a tree on a cottonwood grove. There was no gallows. She was to be hanged from a tree. As the noose was tied around her neck and she was strung up to hang, it was noticed that the sheriff had forgot to tie her hands. The crowd stood in shock as Angel grabbed at her neck and tried to loosen the rope. As she was slowly being choked to death, the sheriff wrapped his arms around her waist to attempt to weight her down and facilitate her demise. The crowd booed and ordered she be cut down. The sight was unbearable.

The execution was momentarily halted so that the sheriff could tie Angel’s hands behind her back. Moments later, she was hanged once again. This time, it was successful and Angel finally perished.

Scaling Challenges Down...

Throughout the D&D crazed Internet,  there are numerous encounters designed to stretch not only the capabilities of the players and their characters, but those of the monsters as well.

5th Edition has specific rules for making monsters tougher by raising their Hit Dice, while the Player’s Handbook and Dungeon Master’s Guide provide tools for adding character levels to monsters and adding traps to their lairs.

For a change of pace, a DM may want to scale a monster down, making it weaker.

The possible reasons for scaling down an encounter are numerous.

So are the ways to do it.

The most complicated way to scale down a creature is by reversing the process for scaling it up.

Removing Hit Dice removes skills and combat abilities.

It may reduce the effectiveness of spell-like abilities or even the number of spells a creature can cast per day.

Reducing a creature’s size (say, from Large to Medium-size), not only lowers its physical ability scores, but could provide an interesting story angle as well (for instance, a runt minotaur hoping to win the respect of his peers).

Hampering monsters the same way a DM hampers characters can be less work for the same reward.

Perhaps an ettin has lost his greatclubs or a bard no longer has his intrument.

Creatures with limited use abilities may have already used some or all of them for the day.

This tactic works as long as the players can be made aware of the limitation.

Maybe a mage used his cone of cold earlier that day to kill an owlbear.

If the players find a partially frozen owlbear corpse, they have a chance to figure out their nemesis is not up to full strength.

As an alternative, consider putting a powerful creature in an environment that’s hostile to it, or simply inconvenient.

Perhaps a kuo-toa took a wrong turn getting back to the pool and ended up in the courtyard of an abandoned castle.

With the sun coming up soon, the adventurers can wait in the stables for the right moment to strike.

If the griffon the party is running from is foolish enough to follow them into a thick grove of trees, its maneuverability is drastically cut down.

The same way you play up a creature’s intelligence to make it tougher, playing up a creature’s stupidity can help even the odds.

Even smart monsters can make bad decisions…

Using cursed items can further offset a creature’s powers.

Creatures can even have permanent spell effects on them from previous adventures, such as blindness or bestow curse.

At the lower end of desirability, but still acceptable in certain situations, is simply knocking down hit points.

Consider a mimic that hasn’t had time to fully heal after its last encounter with a group of goblins.

Like most of the tricks in this book, scaled-down monsters should be used sparingly.

You should never introduce a new monster as a weakened version.

Using scaled-down monsters may make the players unimpressed, unprepared, or reckless when they meet the normal version.

Even if they have seen the monster before, they may feel cheated if they run into weakened monster after weakened monster.

Scaling down the CRs is an inexact science at best, and that may lead to more complications when assigning experience points.

Used in the right way, however, it offers more opportunities for cleverly designed encounters.

Gardens by the Bay - Singapore 

A national icon of Singapore, Gardens by the Bay is a nature park, spanning 250 acres, in the heart of Singapore. The most famous section of the park, Super Tree Grove, features vertical gardens, ranging between 25 and 50 metres high. Each Super Tree houses unique and exotic species of ferns, vines and orchids. The Super Trees are able to harness solar energy, which power the light show that happens every night. They also collect rain water, which is used for the parks water fountains. Sky High walkways between the trees offer visitors great views of the park, and nearby Marina Bay Sands. 

Submitting bc this idea has been building for a while, after reading your comic. I hope this isn’t presumptuous.

There are some places on the campus where space… folds.

If you step through this arch at midnight on a new moon when only starlight creates shadows you’ll step from the neatly-paved courtyard to the paired stones outside Tara. Thankfully the Good Neighbours there are used to it, and will tell you how to get back, though it might cost you the shirt off your back. Apparently they’re making a super-quilt.

There’s the small grove just at the edge of campus and in the middle of summer when the dragonflies drone and pollen spirals through shafts of sunlight like flakes of gold you really need to avoid the ring of Fly Agaric that sprung up after the stump of the old felled white oak rotted away. If you don’t, make sure you have some milk, or some cream, or a sack of really high quality charcoal. The Huldrekin at the other end might just send you back if you come bearing gifts, though if they especially like you they may keep you and send back a changeling instead.

There’s a twisting void in the stretching pond (and if you look at it through the trees of the grove it looks like it’s far larger than it is, a lake, not a pond) and yes, there’s the Nixies you know, and the melting sun-shy Asrai, the leather-capped Merrows, and the sealy Selkies you’ve come to recognise - they’re almost open about things, and if you’ve ever let one take you to bed you can see them all, waving at you. They’re probably the only ones which let you see, and won’t curse you for it.

(The seal-like teeth had freaked you out at first, but there is a reason Selkie lovers are reputed to help with heartbreak.)

(You remember that week fondly, and you still go down with pieces of unusual fish after there’s the market in town. It doesn’t hurt to maintain a good relationship with your ex, and especially not when they’re of the Good Neighbours.)

Generally, though, you won’t see the Sjora or the Havsra, the single, lone wish-granting Ceasg, the small amphibious Kallran, unless you are very polite. Usually your ex will introduce them for you and then, maybe, you’ll be allowed to See through, see the kelp-green hair or the needle-sharp teeth, or the wide-and-watching fishlike eyes. Sometimes, if the magics begun to permeate even you, you can smell the fish they’ve been eating.

There’s a cupboard in the cafeteria, affectionately called Narnia, and two Student Halls which everyone is reasonably certain are secretly entrances to an eternal party held by the Good Neighbours - it’s either that or, somehow, every year, the vapers and drinkers and party-ers all end up in these two halls, and end up rolling into their lectures 10 minutes late and with cups of Good Neighbour-made hangover cure. They’re tightlipped about what happened, but, well. Everyone assumes that’s the price of entry.

The science labs are free of these odd little folds, probably because of the iron, but the Law building is filled with them, as are the Arts departments. History has two doors in the East corridor that lead… elsewhen. Not elsewhere, elsewhen. Some of the students use them for history papers and cultural studies essays, but they have to be very careful if they ever intend to come back.

Twice now the budding archaeology department have done a practice dig only to find century-old bones that definitely show evidence of modern braces. And no one talks about the three-hundred year old FitBit.

(“You have walked 19,967 steps today!” It had shown in a pretty and definitely non-standard cursive when a … maybe changeling student had picked it up and wiped off the years. “You have 10% battery left. Please give me more magic!”)

(Now the techs are trying desperately to see if they can power their computers with magic. This would be easier if their building had less iron, but they aren’t about to move.)

(Not like the budget is going to let them.)