Here Be Monsters Podcast

The Podcast About the Unknown

HBM101: Much Corruption

Growing up, Jeff Emtman had a hard time balancing his piety for the One God with his piety for the Gnomish lord Berwyn.  Generally, he deferred to the latter, though he lost favor eventually with both.

Jeff’s scoutmaster, a retired surgeon with a habit of collecting unusual boats, was always trying to get Jeff outside, away from the computer where he spent most of his free time playing a game where he tried to save the world from corruption and evil.  

Ancient Domains of Mystery (more commonly called “ADOM”) is an massive roguelike game that’s inspired heavily by Dungeons and Dragons.  Developer Thomas Biskup released the first version of it in 1994.

Jeff, a gnomish wizard of status, is susceptible to corruptive background radiation.  Once pure, his breath became ever more sulphurous, thorns that sprouted from his hands, etc. And he failed in his quest to save the world.

Example of a character bio created in ADOM. This character, a dwarfish wizard was born in the sign of the Falcon, which garners benefits to initial willpower and charisma. Also has increased ability to survive in in wild. Dwarves tend to be good with magic and subterranean skills.

Character ‘@’ engaged in combat with goblin berserker ‘g’ in a partially explored dungeon. Hostile ice vortex ‘V’ approaches. Far right: Staircase leading upwards ‘<’, lawfully aligned altar ‘_’ and an ancient statue ‘&’. Also pictured: walls ‘#’, floors ‘.’, and doors ‘#’.

The Surgeon invited Jeff to join him for kayaking on the Naches River of Washington State.   The river holds a small irrigation dam that the two must navigate--the Surgeon with ease, and Jeff with no small amount of existential, religious struggle.

The “burning hands” spell in this episode comes from a Esperanto-language reading of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities, released as public domain audiobook by Librivox. The excerpt used can be translated to “...and the chain was bound around the arm.”

Jeff Emtman produced this episode with help from Bethany Denton.

Music: Serocell ||| The Black Spot ||| AHEE ||| Circling Lights ← New music!

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HBM100: Faraway Minds

Anna Klein thinks that tea tastes better on the Faroe Islands.  She thinks the water’s more pure there, and the Northern Lights let the sky be whatever color it wants to be.  She often thinks about moving there.

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Content Note: 
- Violence (momentary)
- Language (fleeting)

But she also worries that her fantasies of running away to the remote corners of the world may be a familial urge to isolate herself, the same way her father did...a tendency that ultimately contributed to his early death.

It was a loving and hurtful relationship that led Anna to retrace her father's life.  From her home in Aarhus, to his dying place of Copenhagen, to his hometown of Skagen, and then back to Aarhus again via the museum at Moesgaard.

Anna Klein produced this episode.  Jeff Emtman and Bethany Denton edited.  Nick White is our editor at KCRW, where there are a lot of people we don’t often get the chance to thank, but help us to make this show: including Gary Scott, Juan Bonigno, Adria Kloke, Mia Fernandez, Dustin Milam, Christopher Ho, Caitlin Shamberg, JC Swiatek, and many others.

We’ll be back in the fall with new episodes.  In the meantime, follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram for updates from the off-season.  Rate us on iTunes and tell a friend too.

Music:  Lucky Dragons ||| The Black Spot

 A sandy beach in Skagen, the northernmost town of mainland Denmark

A sandy beach in Skagen, the northernmost town of mainland Denmark

HBM098: Feed the Queen

The Victoria Bug Zoo is home to dozens of species of insects and arachnids, and two leaf cutter ant colonies.

There's the new colony, with a three year old queen whose kingdom grows every day. If all goes well, she is expected to live to the age of fifteen, laying an egg approximately every three seconds. Her colony is teaming with a healthy population of soldiers, gardeners, and foragers with the potential to reach more than a million ants. There is a constant stream of activity; the soldiers patrol the tunnels to keep the queen and colony safe, the foragers trek back and forth retrieving leaves for the gardeners who busily chew the leaves into substrate.

Leaf cutter ants don't actually eat the leaves they cut down. Instead, they use chewed up leaves to build nurseries for the hatchlings, and to grow fungus gardens. The fungus produces a nectar, and that's what everyone eats. These ants have farmed and domesticated this fungus for many millions of years, long before humans discovered agriculture. This special relationship is called “mutualism”.

The second ant colony -- the old colony -- is not a robust as the first. At thirteen, almost fourteen years old, the old queen recently passed away. In fact, Bug Zoo tour guide Ash Bessant discovered ants dragging dismembered parts of her body to the ant graveyard as HBM producer Bethany Denton was interviewing him.

From: Ants! Natures Secret Power A giant ant colony is pumped full of concrete, then excavated to reveal the complexity of its inner structure.

According to Ash, some of the ants continue to try feeding and cleaning the queen even after she’s died. Without a queen to lay eggs, the colony population will eventually dwindle and die out.

Can’t get enough leaf cutter ants? We recommend the 2013 BBC documentary Planet Ant: Life Inside the Colony

Bethany Denton produced this episode, with editing help from Jeff Emtman. Nick White is our editor at KCRW, and Kristen Lepore is our manager at KCRW’s Independent Producer Project.

Music:  The Black Spot   |||    Serocell


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