You may think time passes rather slowly aboard a ship, tireless drifting South on the Pacific Ocean, towards our temporary destination within the Chilean fjords. You may also assume that with a ship filled with scientists, engineers, technicians, and other like-minded, sea-faring folk, we spend all our (copious) free time dreaming up new and exciting ways to science at sea; perhaps the next BIG scientific revelation is being contemplated here, in its infancy, and it’s just a matter of time. You may think we sit around, gabbing to one another about our favorite group of invertebrate weirdoes – who would win in a fight: the docile, shell-less molluscs called aplacophorans, or a closer relative to vertebrates and ever-squishy, uber-fragile critters commonly called acorn worms? I know my family wonders, “You’re spending almost two months at sea, and that’s just to get to where the actual research begins – so what do you do?” Well, reader, I’m here to tell you that not only do we absolutely do these things, but we’ve also become rather adept at making time for other forms of leisure aboard the RVIB Nathanial B. Palmer.
Although the days are busy with folks digitally scribbling scientific manuscripts destined for peer-review while technicians aboard the ship prepare a variety of scientific instruments for our approaching Antarctic sampling frenzy, the evenings often take a different tone. Just two days prior to writing the present text, twelve of our most staunch scientific cruise members assembled in the third-floor conference room. No one spoke at first, but the collective knew they had only one month to solve a problem before we arrived at our destination across the Drake Passage. One month, that’s it. Any critical strategic mistakes and it could jeopardize any progress that had been made just moments prior. Every decision had to be carefully weighed against the suggestions of the rest of the party surrounding the conference table. There was dissent, there were conflicting ideals. The sleepy town of Grimmsgate was descending into ruin, and the decisions made at this conference room table would decide their fate.
I am, of course, speaking of the Nathanial B. Palmer’s newest Dungeon’s & Dragon’s campaign (shout-out to Frog God Games and Wizards of the Coast)!
Sure, I could tell you about the books being read in recreation, the various boardgames (of which there are many), movies and/or television we have been occupying ourselves with during the nights. Instead, let me provide you, dear reader, with some context to the colorful cast of characters that surround the 03 conference room table every-other night until we hit Antarctic waters. Led by myself and Damien Waits (this campaign’s Dungeon Master duo), our cast of adventurers feature a broad spectrum of science crew aboard the Palmer. Whether we consider Miso the Soup (an elf druid played by Nusrat Noor), Duke Oakly (a human sorcerer played by Will Ballentine), or Folgar Oris of the Frozen Mountain (a dragonborn barbarian played by Ken Halanych), our heroes are placed on common ground to fight the evils surrounding (and within) a ruined temple which has plunged into chaos. In addition to the ludicrous hijinks performed by the party (including speaking with river fish to determine the whereabout of an ogre, getting directions from horses, and sleeping on rooftops), we’ve also incorporated guest stars from even more members of the science team – playing characters such as the town’s unruly blacksmith (played by Candace Grimes), the excitable merchant (played by Kevin Kocot), and the wholesome inn-keep (played by Che Ka). As the party unravels the mysterious arcanum which has befallen the sleepy town of Grimmsgate, I’m happy to say that we work well not only as scientific colleagues, but also as a league of adventurers!
With less than a month of time until our adventurers hang up their hats, cloaks, and arms for a new journey in Antarctica, we will be here around this table, every other night, solving the imaginary problems caused by witches and ghouls.
Ph.D. student in the Halanych Lab