Illusions with Kids

Everyone seems to be offering free or discounted classes right now. I don’t have extra time because three kids at home full time, but hey, that’s okay. I still found this go at your own pace video based class. It’s called ‘The Science of Well Being’ and is touted as a Yale class being offered through Coursera. It’s been one night, so I’m not going to get into that, but there was this great bit about the GI Joe Fallacy.

Knowing is Half the Battle

She explains that, in the 80’s GI Joe cartoon there were public service announcements at the end of each episode. At the end of them, the kid would thank the GI Joe who delivered the PSA, and he or she would say “Knowing is half the battle.”

Professor Laurie Santos disagrees, saying that just because we know something, doesn’t mean we apply it.

Then she showed some optical illusions. The first one was the Muller-Lyer illusion. It looks like this:

Muller-Lyer illusion

So the question is: which line appears longer?  The top one.

Seeing is Believing

Look closely. They are the same length.

Muller-Lyer illusion

Even when we know this, the top one still appears longer.

Professor Laurie Santos goes on to explain our own thought patterns aren’t as easy as we think.

Seeing isn’t always believing.

And knowing isn’t always half the battle.

Practice Makes Perfect

Practice doesn’t make perfect. It makes better.

I saw this as a great opportunity to teach the Rugrats how to question what they see, even if they see it with their own eyes.

For today’s class at the College of Very Interesting Disciplines, we talked about illusions!

I likened this to their first class of illusion magic. The second class is coming soon and we’re all excited about it (shadow puppets!).

We looked at the Muller-Lyer illusion above first. Rugrat#1 had seen it before, so I learned they do cover this in school, at at least one of his teachers did.

Duck or Bunny?

Then we took a look at this one:

duck or bunny illusion

Do you see a duck? Or a bunny?

All of the Rugrats said a duck, even though I held it as a bunny at first.

Rugrat#1 had seen this before, so he found both of them, but he still defaulted to the duck first.

Two Faces or a Pedestal?

pedestal or people illusion

So, Rugrat#1 called this a gauntlet. He meant goblet, but either way, I love he knows those words. This led to a great talk about both of those items.

Everyone saw the pedestal first in my house.

Triangle

This illusion lets us see how our mind can fill in a blank space.

triangle illusion

There is not actually a white triangle there.

Now, oddly, my Rugrats started counting out a ton of triangles, seeing each point as its own triangle because of the other triangle intercepting it.

Two Faced

The last illusion we looked at was this one.

two faced illusion

There is a young women and an old crone in this image, depending on how you look at it.

Ken taught us all this one is the trickiest of them all. He has never been able to see either face in the image.

The Rugrats worked together to try to find the faces, and they all claim to be able to see them.

How’d You Do?

I hope you had some fun exploring illusions. If you did, share them with someone else stuck at home. Then use these skills!

And as a bonus:

“Imagine Everyone is a Vampire”

A friend of mine said this recently and I think it’s important. Don’t scare the kids with this one, but practice this “illusion” for yourself.

Stay inside.

Don’t let anyone into your home.

Don’t get too close to anyone.

The sooner we can all properly practice social distancing and stay isolated as much as possible, the sooner we can flatten the curve!

Tavern Shots: Gumption

You are a rockin’ GM.

You’ve nailed the voices, the descriptions, and general atmosphere.

Or maybe you haven’t.

Or you want a little inspiration tonight because it’s been a long day.

Check out our tavern shots and get a quite glimpse through the window at life inside our taverns.

Today We Explore Gumption 

Where: Middle of Nowhere

Located far away from just about anything, this strange little homestead is a haven for weary travellers who manage to stumble upon it. Originally made viable by a druid, this oasis in now home to a halfling and two adopted human children who work the land and help out those who pass through. With no nearby neighbours, some of them are a little starved for attention, while others are leery of strangers. 

If your PCs are wandering the barren lands of the Wasted Waste, the demon ravaged landscapes near the Worldwound, or another seemingly endless uninhabitable terrain, break up their travels with a stay at Gumption. 

Who: Faces of the Tavern

Harbrum

A friendly halfling who has lived here almost his whole life, Harbrum is happy to give visitors a good meal and a safe place to sleep for the night. He works hard and believes others should do the same. He is also remarkably knowledgeable about waterfowl, especially ducks

Bill

A young, hardworking adolescent, Bill aspires to be a brave, kindhearted adventurer in his adult years. He is eager to learn from competent travellers, but wary of those who seem cruel or menacing. He would make an excellent apprentice, if someone could convince him to leave the farm. 

Magenta

A talkative young girl, Magenta is more than competent in the kitchen and has a special way with animals, especially “Buck” the resident horse. She is eager for any information from outside of the valley and could be considered something of a gossip. She seems to know everything that happens in and around Gumption. 

“Buck”

Lost and abandoned after his caravan was attacked by bandits, Stanley found himself wandering the barren land around the valley. By chance he was taken in by the dryad who made the valley what it is today, and he hasn’t strayed far since, doing all he can to care for the land and the people who reside there peacefully.  This majestic horse is more than what he seems, a secret he shares with only other one resident of the valley.

What: Stuff For Your Players to Explore

Each of our taverns includes a table of rumours and a table of events, giving you quick ideas to feed to your players. From animals in labour, corpses found nearby, and a kidnapped child there is something for every PC to show off their skills with.

In the short piece below, we introduce a mysterious traveller. Just what does he have in store for the caretakers of Gumption? And can your PCs arrive in time to stop him? 

Pick up your copy of Gumption today.


A Shot of Gumption

“What are you doing, boy?” asked Harbrum, lifting his straw hat to wipe his brow.

The horse just stared at him, refusing to move from the hay bale.

“It’s time to go inside,” he said, turning from the horse. “The other animals are settled in. Am I putting you in the barn for the night?”

The horse moved from the hay bale and blocked the man’s path.

The sun was low in the sky and Magenta had already let Harbrum know they had a visitor. He didn’t like leaving her or Bill with strangers for too long and was eager to get up to the main house and greet them. He was also getting hungry.

“Come on, Buck. We’re done for the day,” he said sighing and trying to move around the horse.

The horse blocked his path once more and neighed insistently.

Harbrum sighed.

“What do you want, Buck?” he asked, his usually cheerful demeanor starting to fade.

The horse moved to the hay bale once more.

“There’s plenty of hay in the barn,” said Harbrum distracted. “Come along. You can have some there.”

The two of them stared at each other for several moments before Harbrum threw his hands up in the air.

“I’m going inside, Buck,” he said. “We’ve got company, and we can put the hay in the barn tomorrow.”

The horse neighed in protest and moved to block Harbrum’s path once more.

“I’m going to talk to Magenta,” said Harbrum, frustrated. “Maybe she’ll know what to do with you.”

The horse moved slightly to one side, allowing the halfling to pass.

Harbrum made his way over to the main building and went in the side door. The savory smell of a well-seasoned stew met his nostrils and a smile spread across his face.

“Smells delicious!” he exclaimed to the young girl who was stirring a pot over the fire.

“Thanks, Harbrum,” she smiled, wiping her hands on her apron.

Harbrum took in the man sitting at one of the hand-crafted wooden tables. The stranger looked tired, dirty, and in need of a good meal.

“He hasn’t been any trouble?” he asked Magenta quietly while washing his hands in the basin of warm water she’d put out for him.

“No, no,” she assured him, taking a small spoonful of stew from the pot.

He nodded.

“Oh, Buck seems unhappy about something. I’m not sure what though. Refuses to go into the barn, but didn’t want me to come up here either,” Harbrum said almost absently. The good smells were already easing his mind.

Magenta frowned slightly.

“Okay, I’ll be back in a moment,” she said, disappearing through the same door he’d entered.

Harbrum made his way to the table and the man looked over at him.

“Must be the owner of this place,” he said gruffly, surveying the halfling.

“Just the caretaker,” he responded. “Dinner should be ready here shortly. You’ve already got a room for the night, have you?”

“Ay, I do,” he nodded.

Harbrum smiled at the man, and moved back toward the cooking area.

Something about the man was off-putting to him, but he wasn’t certain exactly what.

“I don’t like him,” said a young boy quietly as Harbrum stirred the pot of stew.

Bill, who had just come in from fetching a pail of water from the well, began to pull bowls off one of the shelves for the stew.

Harbrum nodded as the side door opened once more and Magenta reappeared.

“It’s going to rain,” she said, looking at Harbrum and Bill.

“Not tonight,” said Bill shaking his head.

“Put the hay in the barn,” replied Magenta softly, taking a bowl from him and filling it with stew. “Trust me.”

Harbrum sighed and, surveying the guest once more, nodded at Bill to follow him back outside.

Bill frowned, but followed hesitantly.

A small smirk crossed the face of the man at the table as the side door swung shut.

Place this tavern in your game with Tangible Taverns: Gumption.

Available now on DriveThruRPG.

Baking with Kids – It’s Bread-fast Time!

It’s a great time to get back to the basics. And lack of time doesn’t seem to be an excuse for anyone.

Back when I had but one Rugrat I’d make up loaves of fresh baked white bread. The recipe always gave me two loaves and by the time Ken got home, Rugrat#1 and I would have eaten the whole first loaf with nothing but butter. We never even made it to the table. We’d just stand or sit in the kitchen eating away.

With 3 Rugrats the home baking just doesn’t happen as much. It happens just about never. Until today.

Today’s not-homeschooling class included a lesson in baking potions. We took a table of ingredients, mixed them up, and waited to see what happened.

Grab Your Bags

I found a recipe for bread in a bag. I figured this would make the kneading process easier.

We measured out the ingredients at the table. We needed one cup of flour, so we picked out the one cup measuring scoop. Then we talked about how else we could make a cup.

Rugrat #1, who was struggling with fractions before the break, quickly caught on to what I was attempting. He demanded I stop teaching fractions. Rugrat #2 surprised me with his understanding and grasp of fractions. Rugrat #3 randomly selected spoons and cups as the answer.

Rugrat#1 hates stuff on his hands, but he had no problem adding potion ingredients to the bag and kneading the contents while they were sealed safely inside the bag.

 

kneading bread dough in a bag

 

Knead That Dough

After it sat for the ten minutes, we added the rest of the ingredients, kneaded it some more, and then tipped it out onto our table. Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3 enjoyed this part. We had Rugrat #1 set the timer as he wanted no part of it.

kneading bread dough on a table

Then we put the bread into our pan and waited.

bread dough in the bread pan waiting for baking

Bake It Off

Once enough time had passed, we popped the loaf in the oven and waited for our potion to cook. The kids checked the oven a couple of times, ensuring not to open the door.

freshly baked bread

The recipe I used suggested 2 mini loaves, but said one loaf was fine. I don’t know if it’s my oven, which we are still getting used to after a harrowing Thanksgiving where it spat pieces of molten metal at us, the fact it should have been two mini loaves, or something else entirely, but it was not ready at the suggested time.

I think we baked our loaf for about 40 minutes total.

Eat, Eat, Eat

It’s bread-fast time! exclaimed Rugrat#2

Rugrat#3 insisted on having some left over whipping cream on her bread. Rugrat#1 went with peanut butter, a favourite of his, and Rugrat#2 figured just plain was the way to go.

Despite a few hiccups, this was a success!

whipping cream on freshly baked bread

 

a rainbow made of sparkle confetti

A Sprinkling of Magic

Social media is blowing up right with two things: updates on the Coronavirus or ways to distract yourself from the Coronavirus.

I have seen so many posts, articles, blogs, tidbits and tweets about homeschooling.

  • How to do it
  • Why not to do it
  • How to educate and teach without worrying about homeschooling
  • How much learning time you should give your kids a day
  • Samples of schedules

It goes on.

We are finding our own way, and we hope you are too.

 

Ray of Sunshine

I was taking a quick scroll through my news feed the other day when I saw a post a friend in Calgary shared.

The idea is simple: paint a rainbow and hang it in your window.

It creates an I-Spy game (or a scavenger hunt) for people out getting a bit of a fresh air. It says “Hello!” to the people you can’t be physically close to right now. And, of course, it gives the Rugrats something to do!

I shared it to our local school’s parents group and sort of waited to see what it did. It’s had a bit of pick up, and I’m excited!

We live right next to a walking and biking path, so today we made rainbows for the windows. Next week we are going to head out for a little walk (while maintaining social distancing!) and see if we can spot any rainbows.

We’re doing what we can to make the world a little brighter, and a little more magical.

one of our painted rainbows to spread the magic

Exploring the College

This whole not homeschooling thing is going okay. Of course it is day two, so time will tell.

We made dice bags this morning. And we used them this afternoon as our Rugrats started their first gaming session in our new campaign.

For those of you who are curious, we are using 5e Dungeons & Dragons to run this campaign.   

Tour the School

We used maps from The Fall of Mith: Mithos Manor as the basis for the school. These maps worked great for our purpose, but you could make your own, or use other ones you already have.

We printed them out and put them on the table so the Rugrats could visualize where they were.

The new students met their teachers (that’s us!) and one of the goblins in the kitchen. This goblin, the most civilized of all goblin residents at the school, asked the students to take care of a little problem upstairs.

Fight the Dire Rats

The trio of new adventures made their way into a series of storage rooms while their teachers waited in the hallway. 
Rugrat #3, a barbarian with a frying pan (we are using a club’s stats and just calling it a frying pan), waded in bravely.

“I’m good at this!” Yelled Rugrat #3 as she hit one with her frying pan. 

The boys followed in close to behind. Rugrat #1 used his shocking grasp cantrip while Rugrat #2 used his sneak attack and rapier. 

Learn, Learn, Learn

Math: recognizing numbers, adding dice together, identifying the values and shapes of the various dice, subtracting hit points 
Reading: locating, reading and recognizing words on the character sheet 
Storytelling and Visualization: picturing what was described, and playing along with the story
Teamwork Skills: finding the best strategies to defeat the swarm of oversized rodents

Incentivize

The Rugrats have learned chores and good behaviour in the real world will earn them inspiration points for the game. For those new to D&D, these can be used for a bonus on rolls.  We are hoping this encourages them to do things around the house with a good attitude. 

One Last Lesson

I’ve heard a lot about the pepper and soap experiment, and I figured this was the perfect thing to start our first potions class off with. It also served as the perfect transition out of the game, and back into the real world.

Potions: The Magical Substance Called Soap

I put the pepper in the bowl of water, then I put dish soap in a small container.

Everyone put their fingers into the pepper and water and watched as the “germs” clung to them.

Then we dipped our fingers in the “magical potion” and watched what happened when we put our fingers in the pepper water again.

I had them guess what the magical potion was, and then we talked about cleanliness, soap, germs, and of course, COVID-19.

Join Us Again Soon

The new students have only just started to explore the school, and more trouble awaits. 

Stay tuned: we’ve  got more adventures to come. 

Sewing with Kids – Dice Bags

Another day of not-homeschooling.

It turns out the Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs were trickier than I thought, so we took a break and dialed it back.

We have to walk before we run.

Transmogrification Class

Today we turned the bottom part of some pant legs into bags for dice.

I opted to do it this way so I didn’t have to pull out my sewing machine. We have a real love-hate relationship. And I swear it can sense my mood. As my patience wears thin the feeder doesn’t work properly, the spool catches and I end up with a big old mess. 

Cut the fabric to a bag size

I just sort of winged this. Mostly I looked where the rips were in an old pair of toddler jeans I had and cut the line below that. You should do whatever size works for you.

old pants cut down to sew a dice bag

Sew the bottom together

You could swap the order of this and sewing on the button. It doesn’t really matter. 

I ran my thread along a wax block I have to make the thread a bit stronger. Then I got the stitching started for Rugrat #1, who I set to work with a simple stitch.

I did the work for Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3, and then I went over Rugrat#1’s work. He had done a great job, but I knew if by chance it broke, or a hole was too big, he’d be upset. 

Rugrat#1 stitching the bottom of his dice bag

Sew on a button

I let the kids sort through a few jars and bags of buttons I have. I picked up a big bag of mixed buttons from the dollar store a few years back. They were cheap and varied. I meant to use them for scrapbook, but with three kids I just never had time. I also picked up a bag of pink buttons last week for pig noses. And we have this collection of jars of buttons I inherited from my nana. 

They had a great time going through and picking the right button for them.

I started each of them off, and I secured the button on the bag. Then I set them to work going over what I did to make it more secure, and to get them familiar with how to stitch on a button.

Rugrat#1 stitching a button on his dice bag

Rugrat #1 hated it. He hates buttons. I don’t think he actually owns a single thing with a button on it. 

“What would you do if a button fell off your shirt?”

“I’d never own a shirt with a button,” he said.

“What would you do if you had kids one day and the button fell off their shirt?”

“I’d throw it away,” he said. 

I know people who do just that, but I figure, sewing a button back onto a shirt is far less work than having to hunt down a new shirt at the store. And it’s a great skill to have. So I made him do it anyway.

Rugrat#3 trying to thread a needle while sewing

Rugrat#3 surprised me the most with this part of the project. She has some trouble with her needle coming unthreaded. I offered to help, but she insisted she try threading it herself. She patiently tried over and over. And she did it! 

When Rugrat#2 pulled the needle too hard while working on his project, she even managed to thread his needle!

Add something to secure it with

Rugrat #3 loves rainbows. And sparkly things. So I found a few pieces of embroidery thread and braided them together with her. We secured the braided string around the button. Now when she wants to close it, she just wraps it around the bag, and then the button.

Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3 both opted for how I originally thought I’d do it, stitching a single piece of embroidery thread around the top of the bag, making a drawstring. The two ends can then be pulled and wrapped around the button. 

Children's dice bags

Finished!

And now the kids have run off to roll their dice and see what the sums add up to.  I’m calling this a win!

 

Finished children's dice bag project

 

We Won’t Homeschool

COVID. ‘Nuff said – right?

Our rec centre closed.

Our libraries closed.

The trampoline place I promised my kids over and over I’d take them for spring break closed.

Everything Closed

Including the schools.

“Are you going to homeschool us?” Rugrat #2 asked.

My sweetest of darlings… if I had to set a curriculum and try to keep you all focused on classes we’d all lose our minds.

Nope. Not happening.

Homeschooling Begins

Serious props to all the parents out there eager to get set with homeschooling, or who do it on a regular basis.

In my house, for me, it isn’t happening.

At least not exactly. Rugrat #1 loves to escape from reality. If he gets overwhelmed he hides away in video games, and honestly – who doesn’t like to do that sometimes?

Ken and I have both been known to hide away in role-playing games.

And that’s how it came to me: COVID.

No, no. Not that one.

I’m seeing so many posts about keeping our kids calm, about making this memorable in a good way for them, about making the most of this time.

Yes, we are talking to them about reality. Yes, we are sharing some of the news with them.

That doesn’t mean we can’t put a positive swing on things to make it all easier, right?

The College of Very Interesting Disciplines Opens

The kids are going to fantasy school.

“I want to find treasure. And fight things. With a frying pan!” exclaimed Rugrat #3

We made up characters today, and then they helped create the list of subjects.

Field Trips

Over and over Rugrat #2 and Rugrat #3 suggested field trips.

Social distancing makes that difficult… or does it? Hello modules! How happy am I to see you!

Home Economics Transmogrification Classes

I’ve got a few sewing projects I’ve been meaning to work on with the kids, so now is the time to do that. One is the much promised Wonderful Pigs of Jillian Jiggs, but we also need somewhere to keep those dice!

Science Potions Classes

We have this fun Science in a Bag book with some great experiments we are going to call potions. 

Mathematics

We’ll cover this with Lego math, and also with using dice in the field trips. When the kids made up their characters today, they had to add up the values of the different dice to come up with their stats. 

 

I’m going to post updates of the classes, of the stuff we cover, and of how it all goes.

None of us are alone in this, even if we are physically alone. We are fortunate enough to have so many resources at our finger tips, and loads of service providers are stepping up to the plate.

Hang in There

This is going to take time.

Find what works for you.

And feel free to send your kids to your own college. We’ll be here sharing ideas!

an underground cavern

Halflings, Ghouls and Horses: oh my!

Okay, so we really got lost in a world of Kobolds.

On top of all of the settings, mini adventures and other products listed in that post, I’ve been hard at work with a few more great products for this really great producer of 5e content. There are a couple of them still in the works, and Kobold Press will have more about them soon.

Empire of the Ghouls

This really successfully Kickstarter vs. the undead wrapped up a little while ago, and if you were one of the 2,000+ backers who jumped aboard, shipments should be going out in April. It was a great pleasure to have a hand in this project and I cannot wait to see the whole thing come together.

The lead designer is Richard Green, and contributing designers include Chris Lockey, Dan Dillon, Jeff Lee, Jon Sawatsky, Mike Welham, and Wolfgang Baur. Plus me – Kelly Pawlik! The project editor is Meagan Maricle and she is incredible. If you didn’t take part in this Kickstarter, watch their website and pick up a copy once it is available. 

Complete KOBOLD Guide to Game Design, 2nd Edition

Because sometimes you want a break from settings and adventures, you can find my essay in this great resource.

Between these covers, you’ll find practical, thought-provoking essays on worldbuilding, creating magic systems, conflict, and compelling stories, what to expect when you work as a design professional, and much more. Conceptual chapters examine what game design is and how good design can create the best games. Concrete examples provide models to help you create well-rounded designs and exciting adventures.

More about these essays can be found on the Kobold Press website. 

Warlock 17: Halflings

If you prefer supplements you can use at your gaming table, check out Warlock 17: Halflings.

This handy little Warlock magazine details three branches of the halfling family tree. Scott Gable asked me to work on this one, and it also features work by Victoria Jaczko. 

Tangible Taverns: Gumption

With everything going on in the world right now, we’re sticking closer to home and trying to tie up some loose ends. If you’re like us, you might think the current state of things makes it the perfect time to settle in, stay home, and play some RPGs.

If that’s the case, we’ve got you covered with a new Tangible Tavern.

Located in the middle of no-where (which some say is the perfect place to be right now!), this tavern is a refuge for weary travellers. No, it isn’t the one in the middle of the woods under a tree, or a hut located on the river, this little farmstead is something new. And there’s a horse with a secret!

Stay tuned – it’s coming soon!