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Old 12-27-2017, 01:15 PM
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Default Don't worry, I'm a genius. Let's play Alchemists!

Hey kids!



Let's play Alchemists!

Alchemists is a worker placement kind of board game about... alchemists. 2-4 players work on unraveling the secrets of the universe, by mixing pairs from a set of eight ingredients together and seeing what they do. The game is partly about deducing the nature of each ingredient, and partly about publishing your genius theory while debunking opponents' theories. I'm not much of one for the worker placement games, but this one scratches all the right itches for me to absolutely adore it. If you like ID games in roguelikes or the alchemy system of the Elder Scrolls games, you should get in on this action.

ALCHEMY 101

I'll start off with a quick alchemy lesson. Ordinarily, the game uses a phone app to read card pairs to determine what they make, since the whole premise is based on people not knowing for certain what each pair does, but for this game, I'll take pairs via PM and inform people of the results properly. For this segment, though, you can use the Alchemists Lab Equipment app on your phone or online. Just set the code to DEMO, and off we go.



There are eight ingredients in the game, and each one is randomly assigned one of the eight alchemical structures with each game code. Your general goal as an alchemist is to discover the properties of each ingredient. By default, the phone uses your camera to scan ingredients, but I prefer to just select the two by hand. Either way, when putting ingredients in your cauldron, don't let any other alchemists see! Do absolutely let them see the results you got, so you can properly brag about it. Anyway, we'll start you off with this simple pair: lotus flower and scorpion. Select Drink Potion, enter those in, and tell me what you got.



Oh, what's that? You got poison? Well, there's your first lesson. This teaches us a few things.
  • Both of these ingredients are poisonous: their red aspect must be negative. Easy enough.
  • One of them has a large red aspect, the other a small one. This is what makes the catalysis happen: matching signs on an aspect, but differing sizes. Even if two ingredients have the same sign, if those signs are the same size, they don't react to each other, and you'll get a different potion.
  • I just poisoned you. There's no way to go head-to-head like this in gameplay, but you should still never really trust anything another alchemist says unless you can verify it yourself. But that we'll cover later.

So, as mentioned, mixing two ingredients together gets you a potion, and it determines this by both size and sign of their aspects. Let's see about working with things we already know (although it is your responsibility to discern this yourself in gameplay, for this lesson I will be charitable and share some of my notes). Let's instead go with the raven feather and toad. And for this demonstration, before you enter it in, check my notes on their alchemicals and see if you can guess what they make before you mix them!



Did you guess that would make a health potion? I sure hope so, because I didn't bring any antidotes with me. Anyway, there are seven potion types. Red potions, as you have noticed by now, are health and poison respectively, depending on their sign. Similarly, positive green potions are speed and negative green are paralysis, while blue potions offer wisdom and insanity.

The seventh potion isn't really a potion at all, mind you. If the alchemicals of a pair of ingredients have all matching sizes and no matching signs, those pairs neutralize and create a neutral potion! On the one hand, there's not much demand for neutral potions, and in a vacuum that's meaningless, but think of it this way: if you know anything at all about one ingredient in that pair, you know that the opposite holds true for its neutralizer!

Anyway, in the physical, players usually use a little bit of a chart (supplied with the game) to denote what each pair of ingredients produces, and therefore what the properties of each ingredient are! I STRONGLY encourage doing so yourselves. Here are some sheets to get you an idea of what to expect. An orderly notebook is paramount towards backing up your findings when some upstart inevitably tries to discredit you!


That should really be required reading for anyone even remotely interested in playing, but there's also the game itself to consider.

Each turn, you will decide how early or late in the day you want to get up. Starting later means you can take your time and get some free stuff like ingredients and favors, but it also means you place your actions before other players while they resolve later, meaning savvy/jackass players can cut you off from options you would take. Once that's decided, everyone places their actions, starting with the last player, and then they resolve. You can take an action multiple times in a round, but every other player who took that action gets to do so before anyone does it a second time.

ACTIONS LIST

  • Forage for Ingredients: Simple enough. Each round we reveal the top 5 ingredients from the deck. Each action here takes one from the deck or from the 5 revealed, easy. You can take this action multiple times a round.
  • Transmute Ingredients: Obviously, I already know all the secrets of alchemy, up to and including turning mundane matter into gold. Bring me an ingredient and I'll give you a gold piece for it. You can do this twice per round, but the second time costs you an extra action.
  • Sell Potion: This one's a big-ass complex mess, but for now we'll just say that adventurers will roll into town periodically looking to buy potions. A learned alchemist can make a tidy profit here, and a scheming one can still get a gold piece or two. You can't take this action during round 1, and taking it costs two actions.
  • Buy Artifact: The friendly neighborhood shopkeeper stocks a lot of weird garbage that could be handy for you to have. They're expensive, but each one you get earns you victory points at the end of the game and usually comes with a strong extra benefit on the side. Just be careful, because they won't stick around forever and someone else might buy the one you like first. You can take this action twice, but the second time costs an extra action.
  • Debunk/Publish Theory: These two spaces are, like selling potions, unavailable in round 1 and a little complex, so we'll give them a miss for now. But in short: these spaces are how you win the game. You can debunk twice and publish twice in a round, although your second publication costs an extra action.
  • Test on Student: As the rulebook puts it, a student will drink anything for science. Until they get sick. Then they'll drink it for science and a gold piece. This is the easiest way to find out what potions do, but after the first time each round anyone tests out a negative potion here, the students will charge anyone trying to test on them 1 gold for the rest of the round. You can take this action twice.
  • Drink Potion: The good news is that you don't have to pay anyone but yourself to do this. The bad news is that you'll, y'know, suffer the downsides of any negative potions you drink. Paralysis makes you act last next round, poison puts you down an action next round, and insanity costs you reputation (i.e. not victory points but close). Same deal here, you can do this twice.


There's more to the game, but the rulebook is very well written to be clear about these sorts of things, and has its fair share of charm and humor. But for now, don't worry about the fine details. I'll need up to four players willing to run this game. I shall be playing the role of GM glorified phone app venerable sage: whenever you're mixing a potion, submit the ingredients to me via PM and I'll announce the result.

Who wants to be an alchemist?

While I do have the King's Golem expansion, I won't be running any modules from it. The base game should be complex enough for anyone's first game, even if I do run the Startup Funding module on every physical game I play now.

Last edited by Kalir; 12-27-2017 at 09:56 PM.
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  #2  
Old 12-27-2017, 01:56 PM
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Mogri Mogri is offline
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I'd be happy to play. I've played the game exactly once, though it was some time ago.
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Old 12-27-2017, 02:14 PM
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so i get to make things go boom?

yes? no?

i mean kalir's posting this, so i'm assuming yes even if the rules don't support it.
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Old 12-27-2017, 03:09 PM
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I'm tentatively in, but my responses might be slow in coming for the next few days. I'll be more active after the new year.
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Old 12-27-2017, 03:18 PM
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Making questionable drinking decisions is in the spirit of the season, so I'm in!
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Old 12-27-2017, 09:41 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by aturtledoesbite View Post
so i get to make things go boom?

yes? no?

i mean kalir's posting this, so i'm assuming yes even if the rules don't support it.
I mean, they say it's poison, but lots of things are like poison if they detonate in your liver.

Anyway, going to start putting together starting hands for our assumed starting players of Mogri, aturtledoesbite, dtsund, and JBear. This consists of 3 ingredients, 2 Favor cards (which you will each have to choose 1 of to keep), and 2 gold.

I am also considering offering a champagne room equivalent for people who want to watch while knowing the full nature of everything in the game. This is assuming there's interest in such a thing, of course.
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Old 12-27-2017, 11:03 PM
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So what the heck does the board look like in this game, anyway?



Like this.

We'll start in the upper right corner and go clockwise from there. That column there is the turn order for the round. Technically, the turn order is the same as I posted above (Mogri, aturtledoesbite, dtsund, JBear) but what you guys will actually do is declare which of those spots you want to take. The lower in the column you go, the more freebies you get (ingredients numbered on right, favors on left) but the slower you will resolve your actions. Likewise, if you really want to outspeed your rivals, you can spend a gold to secure the topmost spot on the column. Right now, this is the only thing you need to take any action on. (I mean, aside from choosing which of the two favors I dealt you to keep, but thats a minor thing.)

The five cards below that are by the Forage Ingredients space. You have 3 actions for this first round, and every action you allocate here lets you draw one of the ingredients listed here, or one from the top of the deck if you don't feel like any of them. As above, the lowest player in the turn order places first, but the highest player resolves first. If you queue up multiple actions here or anywhere, you all have to take turns, so if everyone places two actions here, the first player only gets one ingredient first, then has to let everyone else take one before going for seconds.

Next to that is my personal abode, the Transmute Ingredients space. It's simple enough: discard an ingredient to me, get one gold. You can do this twice in a round, but the second time costs 2 actions. Do note that any ingredients you discard for any reason whatsoever are discarded face-down!

To the left is the Sell Potions space. It's not available during turn 1, but you always know who the next adventurer to roll into town is. Let's have a gander now!



Ottfried the Heron, berserker extraordinaire, is known as much for their fearsome prowess in battle as their tendency to drink like a fish. In particular, he's known for downing potions of health, speed, and insanity back to back during his battles. So if you happen to mix any of these potions during this turn (or if you feel like you can scam him), keep this guy in mind next round!

Moving on up, we have the Buy Artifacts space. The shopkeeper here stocks up to 3 artifacts of considerable interest to alchemists, although they cost quite a bit of dosh. Like transmuting, you can take this action twice, but the second time costs 2 actions. There are three tiers of artifact, and at certain intervals in the game, the shopkeeper will clear out any existing inventory to make room for the next tier. Right now, we only have tier 1 artifacts to look at, which are as follows:


  • Discount Card: Costs 3 gold, awards 1 victory point. Your next artifact costs 2 gold less. After that, artifacts cost 1 gold less.
  • Periscope: Costs 3 gold, awards 1 victory point. Immediately after a colleague sells or tests a potion, you may look at one of the ingredients. Choose randomly. Limit once per round.
  • Printing Press: Costs 4 gold, awards 2 victory points. You do not pay 1 gold to the bank when you publish or endorse a theory.

Tier 1 artifacts will provide the buyer with a constant benefit for the whole game, so the earlier you snatch them up, the better. You also know which tier 2 and 3 artifacts are in play each game, but I'll leave those to the spoilerpop since that requires the long view to really make the most of.


Tier 2 artifacts tend to be immediate, but strong, bonuses, meant to give the buyer a quick and powerful edge to carry them through the midgame.
  • Amulet of Rhetoric: Costs 4 gold. Immediately gain 5 reputation.
  • Hypnotic Amulet: Costs 3 gold, awards 1 victory point. Immediately draws 4 Favor cards.
  • Silver Chalice: Costs 4 gold, awards 6 victory points.

Tier 3 artifacts are only available on the last turn, and generally give the player those last victory points they might need to definitively secure a win. If you're gunning for these, make sure you can buy them up before someone else does!
  • Altar of Gold: Costs 1 gold. Immediately pay 1 to 8 gold to gain that many points of reputation.
  • Crystal Cabinet: Costs 5 gold, awards 2 victory points per artifact you own (including itself).
  • Magic Mirror: Costs 4 gold, awards 1 victory point for every 5 reputation points you have at the end of the final round.


Above this is the Debunk Theory and Publish Theory spaces. These aren't available in round 1 either, but again, these spaces are where you'll put your money where your mouth is, aiming to win the game. Do not disregard these spaces.

Right of that is Test on Students! This is one of the places where you can most easily mix up ingredients to learn what a potion does. Pretty straightforward too: choose two, discard them, and I'll tell you what they make. Just be cautious, as the first time a student drinks a negative potion, any further tests here during the round cost 1 gold piece! Slow players should try to keep a few spare coins on hand just in case their colleagues get sloppy or malicious.

Or you could throw caution to the wind and Drink Potions yourself! This is always free... as far as gold goes. However, you're footing the bill for any negative effects that occur. Poison won't kill you, but it'll certainly take you down a peg, and down an action for next round. Paralysis decides your turn order placement for next round, and it'll use that delightful green space at the very bottom of the column. Insanity will cause you to lose 1 reputation, and while the instructions' depiction of "I don't recall doing naked cartwheels through the town square, but everyone else does" is delightful, I highly encourage players to invent their own descriptions of what exactly you are doing to make you unpopular.

Finally, we come to the end of the round. First is the Top Alchemist award, which gives +1 reputation to the player with the most seals on the theory board (i.e. who has done Publish Theory the most so far). Next, anyone who was unwilling or unable to take a given action takes their cubes back from this space, and draws a Favor if they have at least 2 cubes there. Finally, any cubes hospitalized (say, because you drank poison) move to Unused Cubes for next round, and we get a new adventurer in town to sell to (and can see if there's another adventurer coming in).

Wow, what a mouthful! But seriously, right now just decide where in turn order you feel like going.

Last edited by Kalir; 01-02-2018 at 02:50 PM.
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Old 12-28-2017, 06:09 AM
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Just to be clear, my understanding is that we're declaring turn order in the order you posted? Because I deffo have a preference, but if I'm deciding last then I figure it would be working against my interests to telegraph it before everyone else has posted.
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Old 12-28-2017, 06:24 AM
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I'll stick me on 1 Favor, 1 Ingredient.
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Old 12-28-2017, 07:17 AM
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I'd be in for a champagne room type thing if one exists.
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Old 12-28-2017, 08:19 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBear View Post
Just to be clear, my understanding is that we're declaring turn order in the order you posted? Because I deffo have a preference, but if I'm deciding last then I figure it would be working against my interests to telegraph it before everyone else has posted.
You are correct. We'll also rotate this each round, so aturtledoesbite will decide first next round (unless they get themselves paralyzed).
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Old 12-28-2017, 08:53 AM
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Also: during setup, aturtledoesbite plays their starting Favor card:



The Herbalist hasn't got an academic interest in alchemy, but she does know where to get ingredients FOR alchemical purposes. Playing this lets him draw 3 ingredients and discard 2, which I've already done. But now you guys out there know what a Favor card looks like! There's a deck full of these guys, and they all help you out in small specific ways.
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Old 12-28-2017, 11:28 AM
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Everyone's chosen their favors by this point, so let's see who didn't make the cut for the sake of being thorough. (Also Favors discarded ARE public knowledge.)



Mogri discarded the Assistant, who brings a generally helpful attitude to the table whenever they are around. But who cares about attitude, they provide 1 extra action on the turn they're played! Pretty good, makes you wonder what they kept instead of this...



aturtledoesbite decided to discard the humble Custodian. A guy like this might not really seem like someone an up-and-coming alchemist would want to know, but being able to use the Drink Potion space before selling or publishing theories lets you get info FAST, which can make placing your actions significantly less stressful.



JBear discarded the Barmaid, which is completely understandable for a first turn, since her skills at serving drinks aren't super handy in the first round. That said, adventurers are more willing to overlook potions that aren't up to snuff if they get a pleasant buzz off of them, and you'll definitely be the talk of the town if you manage to sell a spiced rum that also heals injuries.

dtsund just discarded another Herbalist and we've seen her already. BORING.
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Old 12-28-2017, 01:37 PM
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I'll take the 1 ingredient slot.
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Old 12-29-2017, 12:47 PM
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Three ingredients, please.
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Old 12-29-2017, 12:56 PM
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Zzz- Huh? What? Who? A game? Fuck that, I was up late, you guys. Do me a Favour and wake me up later with 2 slices of toast.

(Read: I'll take the bottom-most non-green slot, with 1 Favour and 2 Ingredients.)

I think that means that I could also go ahead and place my actions for the round right now, but I'll wait for the go-ahead from Kalir, just to be safe.
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Old 12-29-2017, 12:59 PM
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You can absolutely do that, yes. You have a base of 3 actions you can take on this first round: later rounds you'll have 4.
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Old 12-29-2017, 01:02 PM
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Zzz- Huh? What? Again? Didn't I just tell you jerks to let me sleep in? It's not even noon yet.

Sigh. Fine. If I tell you what I'm going to do this afternoon, will you leave me alone? Great. Take notes, because I'm not repeating myself. First, I'm going to pawn some crap for some dosh, because I'm strapped for cash and I'll be starving. (1 action -> Transmute)

Next, I hear all the kids make their money live-streaming crap on the internet these days, and I want in on that action, so I'm going to check out this Periscope that I've heard so much about. (1 action -> Buy Artifacts) My buddy Carl here owes me a favour for when I stood outside EB on launch day to buy him a Switch, so he's going to go wait outside the door and save a spot in line for me. (Using Associate to place on the top row of Buy Artifacts)



Don't fuck with Carl, guys. He's more neck than man, and he's also quite a lot of man.

Finally, since I'll have blown my entire budget on internet stardom and will need to wait awhile for the cash to start rolling in, I'm going to finish off the day eating whatever crap I can find lying around the apartment before I crash for the night. (1 action -> Drink Potion)

There, now leave me alone; I'm going back to bed.
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Old 12-29-2017, 01:13 PM
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The Associate will also help us illustrate how placement vs. speed works!



So, as you can see on the right, the turn order for resolving actions will go aturtledoesbite (yellow), Mogri (red), dtsund (green), and JBear (blue). JBear's had to declare their actions first, so their cubes go on the bottom row. When dtsund declares their actions, they'll use the row just above, and so on.

The Associate, though, will shove everyone else down a row so as to make space at the very top for the person who played that favor, which means dtsund will play on the bottom row on that space. (Should a second player then play their Associate, the person who first played their Associate moves down one, so be wary of counterplay there).

When we resolve a space, we take it per column, going down the left column, then the right column. So if, for example, someone else places two cubes on the Drink Potions space, JBear's drink would go before anyone else's second drink.
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Old 12-29-2017, 01:22 PM
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Is there any reason for JBear to drink the potion instead of stuffing it down a student's throat? If you're only testing one mixture, then he only stands to lose by drinking it himself.

edit: oh wait, it's *anyone's* screwup that causes it to cost.
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Old 12-29-2017, 02:04 PM
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Right. You are correct that the first negative potion doesn't cost anything, but everyone else down the line has to pay 1 no matter what else gets mixed.
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Old 12-29-2017, 03:04 PM
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And, notably, I'm not intending to have any money left at that point, so I'd lose my action entirely if any of you poison the well before it's my turn. I'd sooner take my chances at possibly suffering a minor debuff.

ETA: Maybe I missed this, but does anything beneficial happen if I drink any of the good potions?
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Old 12-29-2017, 03:23 PM
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Nope. That'd be cool, but I like to assume any alchemist worth their salt is already chugging down at least the recommended doses of each of the three potion types anyway.
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Old 12-30-2017, 05:24 PM
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I'll be taking my sweet, sweet time Foraging for even more ingredients, then making a potion to Test On Student as well as Test On Self.
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Old 12-31-2017, 02:25 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dtsund View Post
I'll be taking my sweet, sweet time Foraging for even more ingredients, then making a potion to Test On Student as well as Test On Self.
I'll do the same, but quicker.
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Old 12-31-2017, 10:46 PM
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Gonna put cubes on Sell Ingredients, Buy Artifact, and Test on Student.
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Old 12-31-2017, 10:55 PM
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Which makes our board for the first turn...



This.

So first, Mogri followed by dtsund will either draw one of the five ingredients shown there, or the top card of the deck, for Forage.

This is highly unlikely to have any bearing whatsoever on what JBear and aturtledoesbite do for their Transmute Ingredient and Buy Artifact actions, so we can tackle those too.

The only request I make thus far is that any ingredients you give me for transmutation, you do so via PM. Any time an ingredient is discarded, nobody else gets to learn what it is.

But yeah, make some choices, yo.
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Old 01-01-2018, 12:34 AM
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I'm going to transmute something (*waves hands mysteriously*) and then buy myself a shiny new Periscope.
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Old 01-01-2018, 02:02 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JBear View Post
I'm going to transmute something (*waves hands mysteriously*) and then buy myself a shiny new Periscope Discount Card.
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Old 01-02-2018, 06:53 AM
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I'll take the scorpion, because it's way radder than a lame chicken foot.
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