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in which Aestrix is a dungeon
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"Gold and silver. And the magic seeing glasses have a platinum-titanium alloy. Actually, while I'm being a magic item nerd, you should be aware that as far as I can tell, alloys are much better at holding enchantments than pure minerals. I also don't think there's a flat 'better at holding enchantments' value, I think it's more like certain materials are better for holding different concepts. Which I have yet to systematically experiment with. Yet."

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He strokes his chin.

"Interesting. I don't get a lot of call to work with gold and silver, but we've long suspected that they play some role in magic, since they're so often found in dungeon-made items," Perkre replies.

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"We might be getting a bit away from the subject," Rokat remarks. "Aestrix, were there any other questions you had for us? Either more general things, or thoughts about the design of defensive magic items to get started with?"

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"Mostly I want to," minmax and powergame like the little shit she is, "figure out the exact definitions of what constitutes a proper 'challenge' for dungeons to get extra extent? Like, I don't have to personally make each and every challenge for you to be challenged by, do I? Can I just make a little gym and let you all go to town as you like and not have to be involved at all? Does assisting in the practical design of magical items count, because I absolutely want to have you go test things I make and have design opinions and whatnot. Do animals also work, or is it just humans?" Can they tell she has been bottling up her urge to SCIENCE, she has absolutely been bottling up her urge to SCIENCE. ... Actually! Science is only science if you write it down, therefore, her actual priority should be:

"Oh! Oh and, this is unrelated to my ceaseless curiosity, but! Do you want a copy of my material library sooner rather than later so that if things go poorly, you have a thing to waft at your next baby dungeon to get them to make specific materials? Having a specific physical slab of materials to look at would almost certainly get them making stuff that lasts longer."

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"Having a library of materials would be amazing!" Kose agrees. "... but don't strain yourself. I don't actually know if it harms a dungeon to make too many things without being challenged, but that's because none of the other dungeons I've known are willing to make as many things as quickly as you are."

She taps her lip thoughtfully. "As for the exact limits, I know that feats of strength absolutely qualify. But I don't know whether self-imposed challenges do. Once we're done having people come in and out with initial loads of refuse, we can have someone try it and see? I do know that animals don't work — one of the dungeons I worked with tried using treadmill dogs, like from a kitchen, and that did nothing."

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"Dang. Oh well. I guess if it were that easy to game it would have been done. But yeah, I was going to ask you to please pay for making the material library, however you want to. I do have literally any self interest in me to speak of. Just, I am absolutely willing to make a copy for you as a just-in-case precaution in the future. Uh, scrubbed of some dangerous materials, for full disclosure, but that's probably best for your future interests, too. There are some things I know how to make that I haven't because they are, you know. Poisonous. Or explosive." Or radioactive! Wouldn't that be an inefficient and horrifying way to kill people! She'll do it never, thanks!

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Kose gets a pained look at the mention of poison and explosives.

"Yes. Thank you for holding on to those. It's definitely best not to give young dungeons ... ideas."

Perkre makes a generally apologetic face at Kose, who waves him off.

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"Well, I'm certain we can get some strapping young people in to do some challenges," Rokat continues. "I think the threat of death usually puts a damper on how many people really want to spend time in a dungeon, so since that's not an issue here we should be able to get people through more frequently."

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"Right! Overall I expect that this will be more profitable in the long run. Plus, you know. Ethical. Kind of important, that. ... Do you want age related accommodations? I can just drag over the marker puzzle, it's absolutely appropriate to all ages. The ring one might be too, I have lightened up the rings a bit but I'm not sure sure I got it where anyone could do it by themselves."

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Rokat blinks a little at 'age related accommodations', as though this isn't really something she's ever encountered the concept of before. She pushes herself out of her chair and makes her way over to the ring puzzle.

"Well, I'm still hale enough to make the trek up here," she responds. "And as much as I enjoy ordering Tanth around, I think the ring puzzle was the only one that would have given me any trouble, physically."

She tries turning one of the rings, and confirms that it moves easily enough.

"Honestly, you might want to make some more physically demanding challenges. Young people love showing off like that. Maybe an archery range, or a stone-lifting challenge, or an obstacle course."

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"Sure, sure," she says casually, tone definitely belying how she regrets nothing and probably can't be argued out of her ways. "But these are my first puzzles, no reason I should cut out large swathes of my demographic for no reason, right? And I had been planning to have the puzzles correspond to specific items, and this one is for purifying water, so, uh. No, I don't want to gate that behind something many people can't do, actually, that's supremely messed up."

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Rokat screws her face up in confusion.

"Everything is gated behind something some people can't do, though," she replies. "I may be too old for some of the fighting I did in my youth, but the youths lack the wisdom to accomplish some of the things I've done as I've gotten older. Perkre is a lousy cook, but Dismat would make a poor blacksmith. That's just the way the world is."

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"I think, from a dungeon growth point of view, that having puzzles available to everyone makes perfect sense," Kose chimes in. "I might actually see if I can change my starting advice to young dungeons to take advantage of that. But I also think that if you do run out of accessible puzzle ideas, it would be fine to make some more restrictive ones since at that point you would already have many available. And Rokat is right that people like bragging about overcoming puzzles, and that having a variety will help with motivation. That can be a concern for later, though."

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"Oh, yeah, I didn't want to give the impression that I wasn't going to occasionally make challenging things for people that just wanted to do them? I've, you know, met at least one person, ever. But my point is more...

".... So, you're right, that that is the way the world works. It is imperfect and messy and often cruelly unfair. But, you see, I'm a bullshit dungeon, so it is my pleasure and privilege to say: fuck that shit, everyone gets clean water."

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Rokat blinks heavily and looks away.

"That ..."

She trails off, trying to find the words.

"Thank you," she says. "For not being cruel."

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"You're welcome. Besides, this way I can be insufferably smug about winning over a whole town! You do not know how much of my personality I have been sitting on, would you believe that I have been trying to be as nonthreatening as possible?"

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Kose chokes.

"Trying to be nonthreatening!? Do you have any idea how close I came to," she starts to exclaim, before cutting herself off.

"I mean to say," she continues in a more even voice, "that I am sure the whole town will be delighted to get to know you."

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Perkre laughs.

"The world is a funny place," he says when he's calmed down a bit. "A funny place."

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Aestrix is also laughing. Or, well. Cackling. She's cackling.

"Oh no," she giggles between cackles, "I'm sorry for scaring you so much you almost pulled the trigger! I really was trying!! My mantra was 'fluffy and nonthreatening' the whole time, I swear!!! I'm just... also kind of garbage at it."

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Kose sighs and wipes a hand down her face.

"I think we're very lucky to have gotten you," she replies. "I'm not sure we would have survived a brilliant savvy artifact-crafter who was also good at lying."

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Tanth walks back in to hear Kose's comment, and looks as though he doesn't quite know what to make of it.

"I've sent the word around," he reports. "And we should have folks start ferrying stuff up pretty soon."

He puts a sack of table scraps on one side of the door, and then digs a bracelet out of a pocket and gently sets it on the other. The bracelet has the barest scraps of stable temperature and body and shield clinging to it.

"That was my father's," Tanth explains. "It made him immune to fire, until it broke. We recovered it from the ashes along with his sword."

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... Well, that drops her mood immediately. It's not hard to figure out what 'immune to fire, until it broke' and 'recovered from the ashes' add up to. She is sad now.

"Thank you," she says, sincerely, "We can set up some kind of bucket from the surface system, maybe? Like I'm a well of magical items instead of water, for people that do not want to go into the scary dungeon."

Then she immediately loses that train of thought in favor of being nerdsniped.

"... Hmmm.... most of this is rubbed off, but it's got a few scraps left of what it was, let me see if I can..." Figure out the logic of the way that this had all hung together, when it was whole, like figuring out the shape that something alive had from its picked over bones. Except this is easier than that kind of puzzle, there aren't as many pieces and they're mostly laid out in the proper formation...

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Tanth shifts his weight a bit, but lets her work in silence.

 

The enchantment is a bit like a pair of jeans worn until the holes overcome the cloth. The parts of the enchantment that took the most damage were the most important, load bearing bits. But, by the same token, the scraps that remain clearly imply their shape by the outline of what they must have been connected to. It is not as easy to repair as simply jamming her own concept of fire resistance into the metal would be, but isn't too difficult, to bind the fragments back together into a solid whole.

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It's fascinating, interesting work, and the kind of delicate artistry she adores. As a dungeon, she doesn't even have to worry about shaking hands or wrestling with a program to make what she wants to be reality. She can just... carefully re-weave it, to all of the places it should go.

"Got it," she says, when she has, "or, well, as close to as I can without having seen it at its best? It should work but might not work exactly the same way. ... I probably should have asked about specifics of how it worked before, shouldn't I, damn it. Bad dungeon. No cookie."

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Tanth takes the bracelet back with hands that barely shake, and slips it over his own hand.

"No, it's ... this is more than I could have hoped for," he replies. "Thank you."

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