Looking for math and science 'jokes' to slip into a D&D adventure!
February 7, 2016 11:12 AM   Subscribe

I've got the chance to run a fun, whimsical sort of D&D adventure for a friend of mine. Yay! She's a bit of a science/math geek, and very fond of The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster. So I was trying to think of fun, whimsical science and math jokes and references I could slip in to a sort of 'journey with sights along the way' in the style of TPT.

For example, I thought at some point she could explore a fractal dungeon, where the main design of a center room is repeated into tinier and tinier configurations around the edges, eventually too small to enter. And being a Discworld fan, I thought the mysterious monster “The Shadowing Lemma” (“that only exists in two dimensions, and eats mathematicians”) could make an appearance somewhere. (I'd use a Shadow Mastiff as the D&D equivalent monster.)

What are some other fun and quirky and interesting math/science concepts that could make an appearance in a fantasy world? She's played the game plenty, and likes the exploration/fantasy/storytelling/puzzle-solving aspect of the game more than raw combat and power. We're playing 3.5 D&D if it matters, and her character is level 12. Thank you in advance for any suggestions! :)
posted by The otter lady to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Maxwell's Demon immediately springs to mind. It could just be a demon named Maxwell, or there could also be an actual gas trap involved.
posted by wintersweet at 11:15 AM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: could you provide one ball but need two (or more)? and a way for her to use the banach-tarski paradox?
posted by andrewcooke at 12:08 PM on February 7, 2016

Best answer: I would try to insert the names of some famous math books somehow. Books like "The Number Devil", "A tour of the calculus" and "Alice in Flatland" come to mind as candidates for tongue in cheek references. So, one of my creatures would be A Number Devil. There would be a tour guide or ferryman to help you cross a river called The Calculus. Etc.

I might also look up some kind of "mirage" style artwork, where the staircase goes to two different places or is an impossible weird ass loop, depending on your perspective. Or insert a Moebius strip into the architecture of the place and some kind of verbal reference to it that is puzzling until you see it.

Your plan sounds super fun. :-)
posted by Michele in California at 1:09 PM on February 7, 2016

Best answer: on the same vein as my previous comment, can you make use of the grand hotel?
posted by andrewcooke at 1:28 PM on February 7, 2016

Best answer: Check out the Modrons, basically a bunch of geometry monsters who live in an extradimensional plane of gears and mathematics.
posted by nicolas léonard sadi carnot at 1:46 PM on February 7, 2016

Best answer: You might find some you like at the now famous Reddit Intellectual Jokes thread.
posted by falsedmitri at 2:05 PM on February 7, 2016

Best answer: She needs to fight a dodecahydra.
posted by Night_owl at 2:29 PM on February 7, 2016 [5 favorites]

Best answer: The dodecahydra must have 12 heads, not 7. Obviously.

Or 12 faces, to be more accurate.
posted by Michele in California at 2:36 PM on February 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: In a recent Pathfinder adventure, we encountered an artifact called a picture of health. It's literally a painting that heals. It seems like you might be looking for nerdier math/physics references, but this kind of thing seems pretty Phantom Tollbooth to me, and there's probably a host of figures of speech that could yield one artifact or another.
posted by wildblueyonder at 5:58 PM on February 7, 2016

Best answer: The demons from the Phantom Tollbooth would make great monsters. Saving throws against the Senses Taker. Having to fight the hindsight one (can't remember the name) after taking the wrong turn into a trap. Running into trouble with a negotiation with potentially hostile monsters because of the Everpresent Word Snatcher. Some kind of Terrible Tedium type task. (Alliteration accidental, apologies.)

I'm not sure quite how fourth wall breaking you can go, but even without that, having monsters that were called up from nightmares and actions would make an interesting meta dungeon.

(If you can really go fourth wall breaking, they can pre-buy their rolls at the number mine.)
posted by Hactar at 10:58 AM on February 8, 2016

Best answer: Also, it's blocked at work so I can't point you to the exact page, but the mazes where the open doors in rooms change depending on which room you came from on logicmazes.com can make interesting traps or, well, mazes. (I think there's a link to them from the bureaucratic mazes.)
posted by Hactar at 11:01 AM on February 8, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks everyone!! Great ideas!!
posted by The otter lady at 10:37 PM on February 12, 2016

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