Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tickleweed - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Although Tickleweed grows as a thick, grass-like carpet of cylindrical dark green leaf-blades, 3"-4" in length, unlike normal grasses, Tickleweed prefers to grow on nearly vertical surfaces and will even thrive in dark places, assuming there is ample moisture. The cylindrical leaf-blades are highly sensitive to even the most subtle shifts in ambient temperature so they move and shift continually. Tickleweed stretches towards increases in temperature and away from decreases. Each leaf moves independently causing the plants to appear to ripple and shiver with waves. Even the simple act of walking past a patch of Tickleweed will trigger a flurry of movement. Tickleweed blooms seldomly with circular flowers of red or white with a central black "eye". The flowers are prized by alchemists as they amplify concoctions related to detection, reaction, and rapid, fluid movement.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Sleeping Ivy - Plants of Hot Springs Island

This woody, vine with golden, spade shaped leaves growing in fan shaped clusters of three or five is a true climber, often reaching 30' to 40'. The blooms of Sleeping Ivy are blue-violet colored tufts, or balls, which become covered in an extremely fine yellowish powder. A rash of tiny, fluid filled blisters will form on any skin 1-4 hours after contact. Despite its "angry" appearance, the inflamed area is not painful and does not itch, but instead will tingle numbly. After becoming exposed to Sleeping Ivy a victim will become more lethargic and harder to wake from sleep. At first the lethargy brought on by exposure may be so slight as to be unnoticeable, but it will increase in intensity each day it goes untreated. On the seventh day of untreated exposure the victim will fall asleep (quite peacefully) and never wake again. To treat Sleeping Ivy, the inflamed area must be bathed in alcohol. The higher the proof, the more rapid the recovery.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Quickweed - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Quickweed grows as a series of short, flat, silvery leaf blades along a single root runner, and is so named because it completes its entire life cycle in a single week. A living/growing end and a decaying/dying end is clearly visible on each root runner, and with patient observation it is possible to watch the root grow and die in real time. The grass always grows in a single direction along its root causing entire fields of Quickweed to appear to migrate around islands, like a wave, as time goes by. Alchemists prize Quickweed as it amplifies concoctions related to time, speed and travel.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Outer Gods - Indie Metal Monday

I've found it's pretty safe to assume that a group is going to be awesome when one member is "The Flail" and the other is "The Wrathe". Mael Medusa is two tracks of experimental, ambient, drone metal with enough touches of noise and psychadellica to keep things interesting throughout. The two tracks on this album add up to a whopping 38 minutes of goodness and make me wish I was writing a much more "traditional" adventure. You know... where the bowels of the castle descend so deeply into the ground that they open up into hell itself.

And if the music alone isn't enough to get your creative juices flowing, be sure to check out their tumblr, filled to the brim with all manner of black and white pictures of ruins and forgotten places.

Poznan's Chain - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Poznan's Chain is a soft-wooded clinging vine armed with white, pearlescent spines, 2" to 3" in length that alternate the entire length of the vine with leathery leaves. These vines are typically only found growing on sheer cliff faces or the most opulent ruined buildings. While a single chain will usually run for 20' to 50' and spread to cover an area of about 200 square feet, some vines are purported to reach 100' or more and cover thousands of square feet with their leaves and thorns. The thorns of Poznan's Chain secrete a virulent poison that causes internal organs to violently rupture and hemorrhage, leading to a bloody death in as little as 20 to 30 minutes. Curiously, if this poison is collected and taken more than 5' from the vine it immediately becomes water. Some claim that Poznan's Chain can produce large, silvery, metallic, star-like blooms, but these reports have never been verified.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Juxi Root - Plants of Hot Springs Island

A lumpy, tuber like root, that some swear grows to resemble a pig, Juxi Root is prized by the culinarily conscious. Eaten raw, this tuber has a crisp, sweet flavor but chefs the world over dry it and grind it into a fine powder used to spice and flavor foods, much like cinnamon. Juxi Root grows bright red, trumpet shaped flowers, and can be found in abundance throughout the Swordfish Islands.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Constrictor Vine - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Instead of growing up to seek light, the Constrictor Vine spreads out across the ground as a thick mat of small, glossy leaves. The plant blooms occasionally with unremarkable clusters of small green flowers that give way to oblong yellow berries favored by birds and small animals. While the leaf mat of the Constrictor Vine rarely reaches more than 10' in diameter its root system can stretch as far as 50'. The fibrous roots of a Constrictor Vine resemble the pale hair of a drowned woman, are incredibly strong, and retain much of this strength even after being harvested and dried. As the roots grow, they wrap themselves around rocks, root systems, and anything else in their path. When the roots reach ~30' to ~50' they begin to slowly, yet inexorably constrict back towards the core of the plant. This constriction has been known to topple whole trees and move many ton boulders.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Jelly Moss - Plants of Hot Springs Island

It is said that when a representative of the Martel Company brought the first samples of Jelly Moss, or Ogre Snot, back to Banuvo's College of Mysteries, it nearly caused a riot among the academics. The resident sages were unable to conclusively determine if this clump of grayish-purple tube-like structures, smelling a bit like rotten pears was a plant or a fungus. The faculty became divided. Sides were taken, venomous rhetoric was exchanged, and longstanding friendships were laid to waste. Then, at the very peak of what became known as "The Semester of Slime" Professor Smithwick inadvertently discovered a use for the stuff when he sat down on a sample and his robe became fused to his wooden chair. It was known that Jelly Moss, when crushed, becomes very messy and sticky, but despite all the arguments and investigation, no one had realized this goo would create and almost instant, permanent, bond of incredible strength with wood. The battle of classification now transformed into a full blown war between the Blacksmith's Guild and the Carpenter's over the future of nails.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Rainbow Petals - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Rainbow Petals, or Color Spikes, grow as a stout, relatively straight stem with triangular green leaves, and reaches a height of 4' to 8'. Many four-petaled flowers appear at the top of this stem forming a terminal spike of 12" to 16". The flowers of the Rainbow Petal can appear as any color, including shades of blue and green, and individual petals will even grow in different colors on the same flower. The petals of these flowers are thick, fleshy, and surprisingly nutritious. They are frequently boiled into a thick and flavorful porridge or dried and used in place of bread crumbs or cornmeal on fried food. If eaten raw, a single spike of Rainbow Petals can sustain a normal sized human for a full day.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Pygmy King Flower - Plants of Hot Springs Island

The Pygmy King Flower, or Green Ribs, produces a conical, flower-like structure from a base of 8-10 fat, fluid filled leaves that resemble a broken rib cage. The flower is usually 1' in diameter, 2' tall, and always brightly colored. While the color can vary greatly, solid orange and blue with yellow spots are the most common colors here on the Swordfish Islands. Nectar fills at least half of each basin shaped flower and when exposed to sunlight this liquid releases a sweet, sugary fragrance. Small creatures and large insects are attracted to this smell but upon entering the flower they are trapped by its slippery walls and slowly digested. When a Pygmy King Flower finishes digesting a meal, or becomes over filled (such as after a heavy rain) the flower will tilt and dump its contents onto the jungle floor before slowly righting itself once more. The tiny mold men from the Isle of Blooms prize the Pygmy King Flower and seem to use these brightly colored leaves as hats to denote some sort of crude, tribal, status. The succulent, rib shaped leaves at the base of this plant can be mashed into a salve that is an excellent treatment for major burns and minor lacerations.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Flint Moss - Plants of Hot Springs Island

A dark grey moss, dotted with small flecks of rust-brown, Flint Moss is commonly found in area of thermal activity, or piles of scree. The moss requires fire to spread its seeds, and will ignite from even the smallest sparks. A 3" cube of Flint Moss will burn for 3 to 4 hours and put off flame comparable to a normal sized camp fire. The moss growing on piles of rubble or loose rock is the most dangerous as friction from shifting stones can cause the rust-colored flecks to produce sparks, turning what was once a moss covered mound of debris into a raging inferno.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Metmass - Indie Metal Monday

Metmass - Isolation
Happy holiday to my US readers. Hope you got the day off and have plenty of time to chill out and work on (or play) your game today! Today's Indie Metal Monday post features the album Isolation by Metmass (Grzegorz Sokólski) of Gdańsk, Poland. He classifies it as minimalistic abstract ambient space metal and I couldn't agree more. It's mellow, it's chill, it's expansive, and it's a good reminder to look up more often.

My favorite tracks are Andromeda: Voyage and Andromeda: Spring Night Sky. If you're working on a blasted planet type setting, or playing around with aboleths in space ships, give this album a listen for a dose of fresh inspiration.

Ashvein Tree - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Standing between 6 and 8 feet high, with glossy leaves and twisting, contorted branches the Ashvein Tree (or Assassin's Cloak) is most notable for its thin papery bark. New growth on an Ashvein begins as a light blue-grey that slowly darkens into a rich charcoal, giving the trees a distinctive pattern. After the bark reaches a certain age it begins to crack and peel away from the trunk. If the dark grey bark is boiled in water for three hours, then dried and crushed, it creates a powder that completely neutralizes the flavor and odor of anything blended with the bark as it is crushed. Wood from the Ashvein is exceptionally light weight and releases large amounts of acrid smoke when burned.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Wax Tree - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Wax Trees have large, fuzzy, almost white leaves that grow in bunches at the ends of twisted, dark brown, woody branches that are 1-3 inches thick. While most commonly growing to a height of 2-3 feet, some Wax Trees have been known to grow as large as 8 feet tall. A shallow and spreading root system robs nearby plants of food and moisture causing these trees to be found with few neighbors, even in areas of otherwise dense vegetation. The branches, if broken, ooze a translucent purple, viscous fluid that smells vaguely of citrus. The wax burns cleanly and evenly making it a good alternative to beeswax, and alchemists often seek it out as a foundation for magical glues and thickeners. Exceptionally skilled alchemists are able to use this wax to create a putty that can *permanently* change the shape and structure of facial features. The would-be master of disguise should be cautious however as minor, even accidental, tweaks to this formula will create a putty that causes organic matter (like faces) to dissolve and melt away in a matter of seconds.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Spiderbush - Plants of Hot Springs Island

One of the most curious plants on the Swordfish Islands, the Spiderbush is a small shrub, rarely growing larger than 2' in diameter, with waxy, light green leaves and an exposed woody root system. Tiny blue and white flowers develop on the tips of its branches, blooming year-round. If a Spiderbush does not receive sunlight for a 24 hour period it will use its root system to waddle, or shuffle, across the ground in search of light. Having stubby, makeshift legs and frequently uneven jungle ground, Spiderbushes tend to lose their balance and tumble through the jungle. Due to their ambulatory nature and need for direct sunlight, Spiderbushes naturally cluster together in clearings or along the tree line near the shore of an island. Periods of extended rainfall have been known to trigger sizable migrations of hundreds, even thousands of Spiderbushes shuffling and tumbling through the jungle in search of the sun.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Dripping Tree - Plants of Hot Springs Island

The Dripping Tree has dark brown bark, large leathery leaves, and grows as tall as 30'. Its branches only grow from the very top of the trunk and spread out almost horizontally, much like the cap of a mushroom, to shade an area 10' to 20' in diameter. The roots of a Dripping Tree spread and twist through the ground almost as far as the branches above and are almost always covered in thick mats of other vegetation like Ferns, Tickleweed, and Jellymoss. Numerous cream colored spheres, 10" in diameter, cling to the branches are the source of the tree's name. Special nodules on the roots of this tree detect movement, warmth and pressure causing the globes directly above the triggered area to fall. The globes are filled with a viscous, sticky mucus and burst on contact, causing creatures hit with them to stick to the Dripping Tree's root clusters. When pressure is constantly applied to an area of roots, the branches above it begin to slowly drip a sticky, acidic, digestive mucus onto the area below. This mucus melts through flesh and bones like butter. Smaller creatures, such as lemurs and tabibari can be dissolved in as little as a day, while larger creatures and humanoids may take up to 72 hours to be broken down into nutrients.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Cachuga Pepper - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Pronounced Ka-hoo-gah, and sometimes called "Magma Bites" or "Lava Bursters", Cachuga Peppers can only be found on Hot Springs Island. Vaguely pyramidal shaped woody bushes with profuse foliage bear clusters of small, fragrant yellow blooms which eventually give way to fiery peppers of a marbled red-orange. The bushes bloom continually in the tropical climes of the Swordfish Islands causing Cachuga bushes to produce peppers in profusion. The peppers themselves are 2-4 inches long and hang from the bushes by thick, green, vein-like structures. Cachuga Peppers are exceptionally spicy and flavorful, rivaling the heat and potency of even the Blindfire Vine. The skin of these peppers is leathery and can be mashed into a paste then shaped and dried into chips or a flavorful yet non-spicy paper-like wrapping, pairing nicely with raw fish. The peppers dry well, retaining their fire and flavor for exceptional periods of time, and their seeds can be ground into a powder that causes *severe* eye and skin irritation.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Snapping Grass - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Snapping Grass grows as a clump, or tuft of dark green, dagger shaped leaves, 4" to 6" tall. Six to twelve stalks, each 8" to 10" high grow from the center of this cluster. A pair of hinged, shovel shaped, bright fuchsia leaves, rimmed in spikes sit at the top of each stalk. These stalks sway constantly, as if moved by a gentle breeze. It is unclear how exactly Snapping Grass hunts, but the moving stalks are able to bend, lunge and snap up small creatures with exceptional accuracy. While this plant subsists almost entirely on a diet of small vermin and birds, some adventurers have reported that some clumps of Snapping Grass will lunge and shiny or sparkling objects like rings and gems.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Redgold's Feathers - Plants of Hot Springs Island

Happy 100th post!

We've created approximately 50 plants that are unique to the Swordfish Islands, twenty-five of which can be found on Hot Springs Island. Assuming I've figured out Blogger's post schedule setting correctly, for the next 25 days we'll be posting a plant's description and black and white sketch.

First up: Redgold's Feathers

Redgold's Feathers grow as small, tight clusters of burnished, coppery colored, feather shaped fronds near areas of thermal activity. The plant is impervious to heat, and some claim to have even seen it undergo instantaneous growth when exposed to direct flame. If the leaves of this plant are broken or crushed they give off an acerbic odor potent enough to wake a person from unconsciousness (even magical) or immediately recover from being dazed or disoriented. If the feathers are crushed and combined with sulphur and the essence of a naturally fiery creature, an alchemist can create a non-toxic mixture that will glow a bright orange for 36-48 hours (even after being consumed and digested).

Monday, January 14, 2013

Indie Metal Monday, Some Scary Nature, and a Status Update

Apologies for the lack of scary nature stuff this past Friday. So here's a bunch of content to play catchup! I've said before that I should write these up in advance so I can publish them on a set schedule, but I enjoy the "day of" crunch too much, even if it can lead to missed deadlines when the inspiration fairy doesn't show up.

If you're in need of scary nature stuff this video of a parasitic nematode that emerged from the corpse of a spider. Warning... it could easily be considered to be "a bit much", but click on this link if you want to say "WHOA HOLY SHIT!" a few times.

Interestingly, many of these parasitic worms appear to encourage their hosts to commit suicide so they can spread. Infected ants will waggle dance in front of birds, rats will charge cats, and kobolds will walk up to adventurers for hugs and cuddles. It's pretty bad.

Progress on Hot Springs Island continues at a pretty decent clip. We've been especially focused on the bestiary portion of the field guide. Striving to find that magical balance that makes the content evocative. Once we get them polished up some more we'll start posting them around, so keep watching this space if you want to learn more about Vyderac, Coppermane Prowlers and Crabs large enough to crush a ship.

We got some fresh art for the plants of Hot Springs, so I'll be scheduling a bit of rehash for the blog to show off the plant descriptions with the art. If you'd like to check out the previously posted descriptions you can read about the plants of the Swordfish Islands here (Part I and Part II).

We're about 40% done with getting our various dungeon maps into Dungeonographer. This should allow us to quickly scale and print them, as well as work up our own tile sets to make them super sexy. That's the plan at least!


Cerberus Norska Tshirt design by Martin Ontiveros
Finally... it's Monday. So get inspired with some Indie Metal goodness from Norska. These guys wrote some songs, recorded them, and now play them at rock shows. Their vocals are a little more gutteral than I typically like, but they work with the music well and aren't set to the "ear rape" volume level that some sludgy doom groups go for. I've had the tracks "They Mostly Come at Night" and "Cholera" practically running on repeat over this weekend while porting maps into Dungeonographer. It's just a damn pleasant mix of chill and intensity.

I'm also a big fan of t-shirts and these guys have a badass one you can pick up for $15. Give 'em a listen!

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Wallpaper - The Bone Pile

And I quote:

On a tropical island
underneath a molten lava moon
Hangin' with the hula dancers
asking questions 'cause they got all the answers

Puttin' on lotion
Sittin' by the ocean
Rubbin' it on my body
Rubbin' it on my body

The Boneyard - Hex - HS-02
Come visit the Swordfish Islands!

Monday, January 7, 2013

Mendel - Indie Metal Monday

What is it about those Scandinavian countries? Do Valkyries sing wordless songs up in Valhalla that drift down on the auroras and into the minds of songwriters in these areas? Or is everyone that lives up there actually part troll and hands that large must be ruthless and fast?

Mendel Bij de Leij is making some pretty damn glorious solo progressive instrumental neo-classical metal up in die Niederlands, when he's not busy thrashing his guitar for Aborted, and I suspect divine involvement.

Shores, Pandora, Releasing Butterflies, Sumerian Sun are mindblowingly excellent and maybe I'm projecting, but they pair phenomenally well with the though of adventurers fleeing through crystal choked mines beneath the volcanoes of Hot Springs Island.

Need some inspiration? Put your headphones on.

Wallpapers - The Imps of Hot Springs Island

In recent years Hot Springs Island has inadvertently become one of the fiercest fronts in the eternal conflict between Fire and Water. The island had always been a place of exceptional elemental activity due to its abundant natural resources, large pristine aquifers, and the direct connection its gigantic magma chambers have to the very core of the world. Elementals of all types are unable to resist the allure of the constant turmoil caused by the growth of this volcanic island out of the sea, particularly elementals of a more... impish variety.

Here are three quick desktop wallpapers [1920x1200] showing off our Fire Imps, Magma Imps and Steam Imps. When designing these guys we tried to capture the flavor of each type of imp in 2-4 words. Fire Imps = Fight Club. Magma Imps = Pit Crew. Steam Imps = Obsessive Gamblers. Hope you enjoy these little guys terrorizing your desktop. Oh, and if you'd like a wallpaper in a different size, just shout out in the comments and I'll see what I can do!

Fire Imp

Magma Imp
Steam Imp

Friday, January 4, 2013

Damn Nature! - Oleander

Nerium Oleander. So pretty. So deadly.
Picture from the Online plant guide an excellent visually browse-able guide.

Oleanders are exceptionally aesthetically pleasing bushes. They have a good shape. Grow at a decent speed. Get very large (making them excellent dividers between highways). Have attractive flowers in a variety of colors (deep to pale pink, lilac, carmine, purple, salmon, apricot, copper, orange and white). They can grow all over the world, and are pretty dang drought resistant.

They also happen to be filled with virulent poison. In a vein similar to the Manchineel Tree, the whole damn bush is poisonous. The leaves are toxic, the sap is toxic, the flowers are toxic, if you burn the damn thing the smoke is toxic. A woman I once worked with had one growing in her back yard and got rid of it because it almost killed her dog. The dog slept under it every day, but unlike the Manchineel's white goo and vapors of doom, it seems like you've got to ingest oleander for it to really work its magic.

It has been reported that thoroughly chewing a single leaf of oleander can cause death, particularly in small children/creatures, and because they are a common sight where I grew up, I got plenty of lectures about being careful around them from my father.

So ok... oleanders are pretty and poisonous, whoopty crap, so was Alexander the Great's girlfriend and it seems more exciting to work a poisonous woman into a table top game than a damn flowery bush with glossy leaves. Why make a post on it? I blame Tenkar.

I've come to realize that being lectured about this bush, and learning about its effects on a person really shaped my personal concepts of poison. I've *never* thought of poison as a save or die type scenario because when I hear poison, I think plants, I don't think "snake bite".

To me, poison is a wasting thing. If you become exposed to it, you're probably going to die, but you've got time. It may be hours. It may be days. It may be weeks. Who knows?! Pure damage is just too limited and boring a concept to apply to something as awesome and varied as poison. Since jack-in-the-box "poison needle save or die" scenarios suck and seem to lead to all manner of blog posts and forum threads about making damage more... exciting? full of agency? let's look at oleanders and see what can be plucked from Mother Nature's thorny bosom and dropped straight into your game.

*Typically* oleander is going to be ingested. This will trigger your bodies gastrointestinal defense mechanisms of "get it the fuck out" (vomiting and diarrhea), but those probably aren't going to work, and after a while, they'll stop, but you won't be dead yet. You'll feel tired, you'll feel exhausted, and after going to sleep your heart will probably stop and that'll be that. See that time/wasting element? But this is only one possibility.

A quick list of oleander symptoms can be found here on MedicinePlus (from the US National Library of Medicine). Let's take the symptom list, remix Mother Nature just a little bit, and pair it with the following scenario:

DM: It's a heavy oaken door reinforced with iron bars and an iron lock cast to look like it's covered in berries or grapes.
Warrior: Thief!
Thief: Oooooo! I pick it!
DM: Ok, roll success.
Thief: *clatter clatter*
DM: Ok. Roll again.
Thief: FML
DM: The lock clicks open. Warrior, you notice that the thief's left hand is bleeding.
Thief: FML
... *10 real world minutes later* ...
DM: Thief. Your stomach doesn't feel very good.
... *10 real world minutes later* ... (in combat with some goblins)
DM: Thief. Roll 3d6 please
Thief: *clatter clatter* FML


3:You fall unconscious. 0 hp.
4: Diarrhea. It's bad. Very bad. You try and step back but slip in it and fall to the ground. (if in combat) next melee attack misses you. (henchman loyalty check time).
5: You drop your weapon and injure yourself (1/2 weapon damage)
6: Your [bodily appendage] begins itching and burning as if it is on fire. Large blisters appear over the next 10 minutes. (Effect on combat determined by appendage affected.)
7: You are exceptionally dizzy and misstep as you attack. (+ for enemies to hit you)
8: You begin shivering and shaking uncontrollably causing the contents of your pack to spill about all over the ground. (Environmental hazards dependent upon pack contents)
9: You blink and shake your head. Everything is blurry and duplicated (- to hit)
10: You begin projectile vomiting (stunned 1 minute, - to hit)
11: Diarrhea. It's bad. Very bad. (henchman loyalty check time)
12: Your tongue swells up to three times its normal size and turns a lurid color of puce. (cannot speak)
13: You feel woozy and fall down.
14: You drop your weapon.
15: Large purple blotches begin to appear on your skin. They itch like mad. (distracted, cannot attack, + to be hit, half movement speed)
16: You become despondent. Nothing matters any more. You're chilled and your stomach really hurts. (morale check, may drop weapon and attempt to leave the field of battle)
17: You begin projectile vomiting, but manage to maintain your focus and weaponize it (if in combat). Additionally, you've consumed nothing but red wine today. Morale checks for creatures with less HD than you.
18: You blink and shake your head. You see halos of light around *something*. (Can function as a plot device or reward (lead to treasure), or act as detect good/evil, detect alignment, detect magic, etc)

Save or Die? psh. Give me "Save or Suffer".

Finally, as detailed on The Poison Garden, even if you're in excellent medical care, and pumped full of anti-venom, the effects of an oleander can still linger. A dwarf cow that had eaten oleander had to have its heart started TWELVE times over the course of SEVEN days. Seems like Mother Nature is cool with multiple saving throws.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

The Elves of Swordfish Islands - A Preview

The elves of the Swordfish Islands. A preview.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

A Toast

Monkey Champagne Toast - Lorainne LeBer Rocha
Happy New Year! 2013 is going to be glorious! And now a toast!

Here are just a few well wishes, as we begin this year:
May all the roads you travel down, run smooth, straight and clear
May your path traverse the heights, and not the valleys deep
Let love, laughter, and friendship be the company you keep!