2021/03/30

Podcast Notes: OMGWTFBIBLE

This is a bit of an unusual post for this blog. Regularly scheduled content will resume at some point.

I'm a sucker for ambitious projects. OMGWTFBIBLE is as ambitious as it gets.

In a monthly (hah!) podcast, David Tuchman translates the Torah into modern English and makes jokes about it. You might think people would be upset, but it turns out no, it seems to be fine. The translation might be irreverent, but it's also respectful... and respectable scholarship.

And now it's over (for now). The last episode was posted on March 14th. Here's an interview from 2013, for additional context.

It's a huge amount of effort for a fairly obscure project. It's a hard sell. "Want to listen to the whole Bible?" "No." "Fair enough."

There's also a potential level of awkwardness. "Is it OK to laugh at this? Is this for me?" All I can say is give it a listen and find out.
If you find it heinously controversial, leave me out of it. Go directly to the source.
 

Pseudosocial Relationships

One basic podcast formula (among many) is the Sage and the Muddler (the analyst and the colour commentator), who are Friends. If the podcast is interview-focused, the Muddler is the host and the Sage is the guest. In a recurring podcast, the Muddler and the Sage have ongoing explanatory banter.

The audience is invited to be a silent Friend, sitting on the couch nearby, laughing at the witty remarks without having to perform any social obligations. They are drawn into a warm, happy space where their friendship is secure and does not need to be actively maintained.

Podcasts often give their followers a special name. The PeanutPals. The Bearcubs. The Ahistorical Legion. Listeners are invited to an inner ring, a secret club, a collective fandom. It's not evil or wrong, it's just really common.

OMGWTFBIBLE doesn't do any of that. The audience is kept at arms length. Guest readers are sometimes scholars who run rings around Tuchman, sometimes muddlers of the highest order who, faced with an unexpected biblical name, pause, grin, and try their best.

It's refreshing. The parasocial relationship, and the podcast itself, is secondary to The Work.
 

The Work

Translation is difficult. Translating the bible is proverbially difficult. Some people... don't try to do their best. This list of issues with the NIV translation is well worth reading. Anyone saying "this is what the Bible actually says" should be treated with suspicion. That's a degree of confidence bordering on insanity. Literalism is impossible. The text is a mess. Footnotes and parentheticals are pretty much mandatory.
 
Tuchman insists his version is a "loose translation" and it definitely is... in a sense. Sure, Tuchman plays with word order and punctuation, and deliberately substitutes synonyms where it be funny, but the substitutions and changes are revealing. They highlight the ambiguous bits and the weird edges of stitched narratives. They're scholarship. It's presented as humour, but it's not lazy humour.

There's beauty. There's truth. There's personal growth. And there's a lot of really weird stuff.

In the final episode, Rabbi Sam Reinstein says "I just love that you made this your own. We're not trained to do this [...] to own the texts, not to just learn it as something somebody else wrote or was given to you."
 

In interviews and in the translation itself, Tuchman charges straight at the Big Capital Letter Issues... and sometimes rebounds off with a chorus of shrugs and sighs, but hey, an attempt was made. Conversations with guests are often deeply personal. The interview style isn't polished or pablum. The questions mean something because the host is genuinely interested in the answers; the guests offer unpolished answers. It's never confrontational. There are no "gotcha" interview questions, but there are questions that make the guests think.

Sometimes there are stories of extraordinary adventures and good works. Sometimes its just people being people, thinking about their lives, trying to make sense of the world.
 

Selected Episodes

Listening to the podcast in order (or just the Bible bits) is probably the best plan, but if you feel like listening to a sample episode before committing:


Chapter and Verse

The Bible can feel like a series of disconnected statements. Numbering verses doesn't help. How many other books do you read where every line is punctuated with a number, and every story split into arbitrary chapters after it was written? Reading Bibles are handy. These days, with word processors and free texts, you can make your own at home.

OMGWTFBIBLE is an unabridged translation. Tuchman had to translate, and someone had to read, the whole thing. A lot of Bible-related works rely on greatest hits, selected sections, or summaries. This doesn't, and it's what originally drew me to the podcast. It doesn't take the easy road.

The Future

Tuchman says he's taking a break from translation for an indefinite period, and I can't blame him.

But if there's more OMGWTFBIBLE, I'd love to see Mordecai Lebowitz read Jonah. Or anyone, really. Jonah is great. So overdramatic.

I'd love to see Tuchman's translation of Ezekiel, the swearingest prophet who ever cursed a curse. Seriously, a potential translation of Ezekiel would turn the air blue and make Tarantino say "that's a bit much".

Side Note: Ezekiel bread. It's a thing you can buy. It's deliberately framed as a biblical health food... drawn from the prophetic performance art of Ezekiel. People who sell the bread mention Ezekiel 4:9. They don't mention Ezekiel 4:12, where God says to use human excrement as fuel. As Tuchman says, "Oh God, you are a nut." These days, the instructions would be "make a mash of all the old mouldy vegetables at the bottom of the fridge and cook it over a diesel fire." It's deliberately bad, weird, performance-art-as-shameful-prophecy food. Not health food. The opposite of health food. This is why context is important.

Or Ezra. That'll be an interesting ride, particularly if Tuchman goes straight into Malachi, and explores the antagonistic relationship between the two books. Or Job... in general.

Side Note: The canonical order(s) of the books in the Bible isn't nessesarily the only reading order. Starting in the garden and ending in Revelations is a sensible plan, but reading them in publication order (for lack of a better term) is interesting too. You get a sense of ideas developing and chronology shifting. I don't think Tuchman needs to stick to a strict book-by-book order for the future of this project (if there is one), especially for disconnected stories.

Or whatever the heck is going on with Shamgar the Last Action Hero.

Final Notes

OMGWTFBIBLE is, as far as I can tell, delightfully non-monetized. There are no ads, no patreon, no tiered subscriber list. Sponsorship of a long-form Bible translation podcast would be... tricky. "If Nadab and Abihu had used SkillShare, they would  have known not to offer a sacrifice with strange fire. Use the code MOLOCH for 15% off." Or maybe instead of Raid: Shadow Legends, it could be sponsored by Smite?

Yeah. I don't think that would work.

There was a crowdfunding campaign back in 2014 that raised $2,432. Split over 61 episodes and 9 years of work that's... not enough money.

There are vague hints of a potential dead tree form of the translation, so keep an eye out for that.

Otherwise, I don't know. The hardest part of any ambitious project is getting anyone to care.

2021/03/19

OSR: Magical Industrial Revolution - Loxdon College Pt. 3: Testing Magic

 

Sean Andrew Murray

Training in Magic

Loxdon College is like a coral reef of magic. Spells flit from brain to brain. Magical education is a perilous and poorly understood affair. Loxdon College works on the principle of magical osmosis, where knowledge (stored in books and lecturers) will gradually seep into students. After approximately four years of passing classes, students are expected to have a competent grasp of their field, even if no explicit magical education has taken place.

In a highly magical environment, cantrips naturally stick to a wizard's soul. They're like barnacles. Proper spells, stored in the brain and cast with considerably more magical energy, require effort and training. Since most spells can only be cast once per day, supervised practice demands a special type of safe, rapidly reusable, low-effort spells. A few "Returning Spells" have been developed, used by Halls and Academies to assist their charges, Clubs to improve their members, or (rarely) by lecturers with an interest in practical tutorials.

Returning Spells are difficult to breed. Some offspring require too much magical energy; some fail to return quickly. They are valuable but not coveted. Use one openly and wizards will assume you've stolen it from a school of some sort; it's like covering your house with chalkboards.
 

1d6 Returning Spells

Returning Spells can be cast any number of times per day, with a 5 minute gap between casts. They still occupy a spell slot. Each cast over a wizard's Impact Factor Level inflicts 1 nonlethal damage and the spell's Side Effect.
 
1. Feeble Hand
Minor telekinesis for 10 minutes. 50' range. Used to practice spell control at a distance. In skill hands, can roll an apple, lift a coin, or turn a page. In unskilled hands, can squish and apple, lose a coin, and slap ineffectually at a book.
Side Effect: earwax dribbles for 30 minutes. A slow trickle of warm hairy wax.
 
2. Elemental Selector

Create a fist-sized puff of the chosen element. Used to practice modal spell selection and precise targeting. In skilled hands, creates a neat heap of stones, a temporary puff of fire, or a hovering teardrop of water. In unskilled hands, sprays the room with sand, sets the caster's hair on fire, and creates a fine mist.
Side Effect: limb numbness for 5 minutes. All tingly. Limb is mostly useless.
 
3. Chest Scrying
Look inside an object within 30'. Generates a small amount of light. Used to practice scrying. In skilled hands, provides a view inside a locked chest, revealing the edifying motto written by the tutor. In unskilled hands, provides a distressing view of the caster's own brain or internal organs, the inside of a stone, or the outside of the College.
Side Effect: vertigo and wobbliness for 10 minutes. Move at 1/4 speed.
 
4. Minor Teleport
An apple-sized object within 10' is teleported up to 30'. Used to practice teleportation magic (always tricky). In skilled hands, the target arrives neatly and without wobbling. In unskilled hands, the target cooks, freezes, is flung across the room, or remains in place while one of the caster's hands makes the journey.

Side Effect: Wizard Vision glimpses for 10 minutes. Startling for the untrained.
 
5. Floating Saucer
A plate-sized disc of force appears within 10'. Used to practice force-generating spells. In skilled hands, the saucer should be level, slightly concave (to hold water), fully transparent, and able to resist a light blow with a hammer. Tutors love this one; it makes evaluation easy. In unskilled hands, spikes of force, cloudy grey blobs, warped lines, bottles, or bubbles.
Side Effect: Wizard Thumbs. They stick straight up for 10 minutes. Other fingers can be moved, but they limit hand rotation.

6. Dye Hair
The caster's hair colour changes for 3 hours. Used to practice minor alteration. In skilled hands, can select the colour (based on a colour sample provided by the tutor). In unskilled hands, produces shocking tones, patterns, or sudden hair loss. Can also dye skin or eyes. 
Side Effect: Wizard Frizz. Hair sticks straight out in all directions for 1 hour. If hair was already doing this, it becomes wavy and tangled.

Quentin Regnes

The Apprentice Test

In the their first Season at Loxdon College, on the first Saturday in the month of Malbrogia, students are called for the Apprentice Test. The tradition predates the College, tracing its roots to the ancient relationship between a solitary master wizard and their prospective apprentice. By ancient tradition, no lecturer explains the nature of the Apprentice Test. New students are informed by senior students, with varying degrees of exaggeration, misinformation, and theatricality.

At eight in the morning, as the last peals of the Bell Obdurate fade, the Proctor Senior stands before the gates of the Second Gathering Hall and calls students by name. The order is theoretically alphabetical, but late enrollments and accidents tend to shuffle the list. Students proceed, one by one, into the hall, from the east.

The hall is almost completely empty. Tables and stools are cleared away, and it is lit only by sunlight. The eight Judges of Puissance sit on two rows of comfortable chairs on the north and south walls. On the east wall, the old benches rest, with eight scorched silhouettes still visib
le; a gentle reminder not to get too ambitious. In the centre of the hall, between the Judges and clearly illuminated, is an unlit candle on an iron stand.

The Judges of Puissance are, in theory, anonymous members of the faculty. They were identical black linen robes and black silk masks. In practice, the distinctive silver hair of Prof. Revelston, the long foul-smelling pipe of Prof. Glass, and Prof. Turnspit's booming demands for "more beer and pastries" makes the identity of the panel less secret than the ritual's framers may have wished. Still, it is an eerie sight, calculated to unnerve young and uncertain students.

The Apprentice Test is simple. In the ancient formula read by one of the Judges, the "Apprentice to Majik" must "light yon taper by majik" without touching it. If the student succeeds, they are treated a few polite claps and ushered from the room by exasperated servants. The next student is called, and the ritual repeats.

Students are allowed to use any magical method to light the candle. The Judges of Puissance, under their black robes, are festooned with rings and amulets of protection. They are also (especially the day progresses) mildly tipsy. 
All eight Judges must be in unanimous agreement. Some students maintain that, by ancient tradition, two Judges must be asleep, two must be arguing, two must be playing chess, and two must be paying attention.   

A student who passes the Apprentice Test is allowed to call themselves a wizard and wear a pointy hat. Hat fashions vary by Hall, but every student relishes the day they can join the ranks of student-wizards... and fears the price of failure.

A student who fails the Apprentice Test is expelled. No exceptions and no refunds. If, after months of study, a student can't light a candle under optimal conditions, they're not cut out to study wizardry, and should take up another profession.

One final recourse exists. In a shadowed corner of the hall, the Idol of Krog sits, surrounded by a circle of salt. It is wheeled out of storage once each year, only for this ritual, and returned hastily to its crypt before the sun sets. The idol is a grey stone head, chipped not carved, with indistinct but menacing features.

Any student who fails the test can touch the Idol of Krog and cry "Again, or death!". They can make one more attempt to light the candle. If they fail a second time, they die. The method of death, and its horrible details, have been explained with grisly delight and wild variation by generations of students. The ritual has not been invoked in decades; even the most ambitious student, faced with the prospect of a truly hideous death, might reconsider their commitment to this particular college and field of study.

Some insightful students speculate that the Idol is mere theater; anyone willing to wager their life to join Loxdon College must be a worthy student. This isn't true, but it's a nice thought.

Igor Krstic

1d10 Methods of Lighting a Candle

 
1. A Flame-Conjuring Cantrip
The solid, sensible, reliable answer, available to most wizards who apply themselves.
 
2. A Flame-Conjuring Spell
Flame spurt
, sizzling bolt, etc. Memorizing and casting a full-scale fireball is beyond most first-year students, to the relief of the Judges.
 
3. An Illusionary Flame
Though the candle is not technically lit, if the illusion is reasonably convincing the Judges tend to allow it. Adding some false lighting effects might be wise.
 
4. Thaumic Charge
The soul is approximately the same shape as the body. By deliberately controlling thaumic flow, a wizard can create a charge differential across their hands, often igniting a candle (and their sleeves) without casting a spell.
Powerful wizards sometimes create thaumic differentials by accident. This method requires a certain degree of confidence; if your soul is timid or disturbed, you'll just stand their with your palms out like some sort of gibbering idiot.
  

5. Telekinesis
Lighting a match or strip of paper and levitating it towards the candle is perfectly acceptable.
 
6. A
Scroll
Casting a spell from a scroll is technically allowed, but is seen as an admission of incompetence or arrogance, and sticks to a student's reputation like glue. Tremulous students might enter the Test with a backup scroll, just in case.
 
7. Mind-Altering Effects
While casting charm-type spells in Endon is illegal, Loxdon College is allowed a certain degree of leeway, provided the spells are used for wholesome academic purposes. Charming a servant or fellow student to light the candle is perfectly legal. As far as student lore goes, no one has been foolish enough to try to charm all eight Judges.
 
8. Summoning
Raise a minor elemental or familiar spirit and have it light the candle. The Rule of Curwen states that anyone who raises a "thingge called or summoned" on campus must also "unsummone it", and the Judges will (as a matter of course) expect the summoned entity to obediently vanish at the caster's command. Fail to banish it, and you fail the test.

9. A Magic Item

Using a magic item or bound enchantment is not allowed, unless the student can show they crafted the item unaided. It's a line few students are willing to risk; the Judges have to evaluate a lot of students and tend to tire of long-winded explanations from a "mere initiate". Reading a scroll requires some talent (or at least knowing which side has the magic on it). Pressing the button on Philogloster's Marvelous Cigar Igniter does not.

10. Bluff
Potswilder Scubb, the famously absent-minded theoretical magician, arrived two hours late to her Apprentice Test. She wandered into the room, drew her spellbook, recited a simple conjure water spell, declared "candle extinguished", and left before anyone could inform her of the actual task. One legendary wizard (variously named by student storytellers, who never bother with minor details like names or dates or truthfulness) cast a mighty lightning bolt, vaporizing both the candle and candle-stick, and was passed on merit.
 

Cheating

The Apprentice Test starts at eight  in the morning and usually wraps up by early afternoon. Any student called by name who does not appear at the Second Hall by eight in the evening is counted as "missing when called", and cannot attempt the test until the next year. They are not expelled, but they are gently pitied or mocked by the student body. Missing two Tests results in expulsion.

It's considered bad form to ambush a rival, put them in a sack, and leave them in a disused cupboard for the duration of the Apprentice Test. It still happens, but someone usually comes along to let them out in time. Timid or insufficiently talented students are taunted by candles left on their pillows or slipped into their pockets, or by "gifts" of matchboxes. The Apprentice Test is as much a test of willpower and concentration as it is one of magical talent.

Actively sabotaging a rival by counter-enchanting the candle during the Test is technically allowed, but it's so difficult to pull off that it's best left to wild student tales or vague threats.

Very wealthy students can also bypass the test entirely (though studying magic without being able to cast a simple cantrip is unlikely to end well). The Faculty are all too busy, too rich, or too abstracted to deal with mere pecuniary matters, but the Proctor Senior is a graduate student, and therefore invariably broke. For a sizable bribe (at least 10gp), they will announce a student's name, then sneak them through side-passages and crypts and out the other side of the Second Hall, without the Judges inside ever noticing.

Any student with the means to bribe all eight Judges with magical items or ancient lore is probably capable of lighting a candle by magic.

After the Test


Students get drunk, set things on fire (including each other), hold bonfires on campus, and generally make merry. It's known as Cogfallow Night, though no one knows why. The newly inaugurated wizards sing traditional wizarding songs while holding up and waving their lit thumbs.

2021/03/15

OSR: Assorted Playtesting Tales

Here are a few stories from games that didn't make it as full play reports. A fair bit of testing goes on in the background; not all of it is interesting.

Andrew Mar

Published Modules


Problem Solved
In a test of The Mysterious Menagerie of Doctor Orville Boros, a PCs found a giant tardigrade blocking the only exit. They rummaged through their inventories before realizing they had a flask of universal solvent. The tardigrade dutifully melted into slime, and as it did, the PCs remembered why they'd looted and carefully protected that flask. It was a vital component (in fact, the only component) in their plan to open the exit door and escape.
 
Exit Through The Gift Shop
In another test of MMoDOB, a PC insisted on looting at least one copy of every useless item from the gift shop, filling up their entire inventory. They were very pleased with their selection until, festooned with squeaking alligator dolls, they ran into the giant and very agitated alligator mother.
 
Gnome on the Range
The PCs cunningly Kidnapped the Archpriest by a) de-aging him with a spell, b) knocking him out, c) swapping his clothes, and d) carting him out in a wheelbarrow. The first 3 steps were sensible; the fourth resulted in a multi-story chase. In the end, the Archpriest was hauled out bodily by the two surviving PCs, leaving a dead gnome behind.

Gnomes, in the GLOG, are invisible when their eyes are closed, they are standing still, and they are holding their breath. The player argued that a dead gnome met all 3 conditions, creating an invisible tripping hazard (and unusual smell) in the fortress for months.

Skeleton Shrapnel
In an early test of Tomb of the Serpent Kings, the party evaded the hammer trap and reset it "in case we need it". The skeletons in the next room proved a tempting target. The PCs fled; the first PC through the door set off the hammer trap. The next PC ducked and evaded; the third PC did not, and neither did the skeletons. All ended up in a mangled heap on the far side of the room.

Acorns of Doom
Magical Murder Mansion contains three magical acorns that sprout into trees when placed in soil and sunlight. In various tests, they were:

  • used as a weapon (acorn + boot full of soil = tree gun).
  • fed to the Mole Dragon (no effect).
  • used to boost the power of an Elf Wizard.
  • buried with a PC, resulting in a sudden exhumation and cries of "Ents! Ents in the garden!"

The Riddle
In MMM, there's an illusory demon that asks a particularly stupid riddle. One PC couldn't wait to hear it, and shouted "a man!" (The default answer to all riddles.) The rest of the group wisely dived for cover as the intrepid riddle-solver received a 6d6 firebolt to the face and took... 9 damage. Scorched but undeterred, the PC said "not a man then", and promptly caught a second fatal bolt.

The Regeneration Chamber
The penultimate room of MMM contains a regeneration tank. In one test, the PCs had diligently checked every room, but with the prospect of the end in sight, decided to skip one door (to the post-session consternation of one player, who'd lost a battle-scarred one-shot PC to the Death Ray).

In another test, a PC worked out what the chamber was for, but instead of chucking in a fragment of a dead ally or a random corpse, threw in an entire jar of assorted teeth (looted elsewhere in the dungeon). The resulting amalgamated monstrosity cheerfully demolished the mansion as the PCs fled.

Magical Industrial Revolutions
Things the players invented:

  • The mobile newspaper (reporting on the spot, printing within minutes, delivery via spells). "Stop the presses" is easier said than done when you're driving a three-ton iron monstrosity that can reach the tremendous speed of 10 miles an hour.
  • The rotating gatling wand (six wands on a spinning stick). Hold down your thumb and pray.
  • Illegal afterlife insurance. Die, and we'll revive your corpse to find your murderer or make any last-minute edits to your will.
  • Dick Crazy, Private Eye Tyrant. Just a name, no further elaboration (sadly).
  • Ray of fog to frogs.

Nikola Matkovic

Misc Games

 
Fail Hydra
After a difficult fight and several PC and hireling casualties, the party finally took down a hideous regenerating Hydra. Only two PCs survived. One, unwounded but very tired, decided to eat the Hydra's heart... then exploded. Whoops.

The lone gore-splattered and shocked survivor spent the next few hours carefully relaying loot to the dungeon exit, leveled up significantly, hired a new crew, and went back in... this time, leading from the back.

The Perfectly Normal Horse
The PCs put a magic obedience-inducing saddle on a mimic horse, then rode it around. The horse happily squeezed into places a normal horse couldn't possibly fit, requiring some very hasty explanations to visitors and allies. It also tried to eat children when not directly observed.
 
One Way To Evade A Blockade
In a Star Wars game, a force-sensitive but untrained (and very un-Jedi-like) PC heard the ghostly voice of their mentor saying "Use the Force. Let go." She obediently, and with suitable reverence, closed her eyes.... and let go of the ship's controls. The panic that resulted, and the nearly disastrous crash, was probably not what the mentor intended.

That PC also mastered a form of lightsaber combat known as "I don't know how to use this thing and that should scare you as much as it scares me."





2021/03/08

OSR: Magical Industrial Revolution - Loxdon College Pt. 2: Clubs, Leagues, and Distractions

Beneath the formal structure of Courses and Halls, Loxdon College is riddled with informal student organizations, traditions, and ways of whiling away the idle hours. Here are just a few examples. Additional cults (Goodberry Monthly).

Nothing in this post is canonical, just as nothing in MIR is canonical. Everything changes.

Academic Envy

A wizard's Impact Factor is (depending on who you ask):

  • the number of people the wizard could kill without warning.
  • the number of people you would need to assassinate to reach the wizard's current position.
  • the percentile chance that the wizard's death will collapse Loxdon College (either physically, morally, thaumaturgically, or some combination of the three).
  • the radius of the crater (in yards) the wizard is likely to leave.
  • the wizard's Level (though no one knows what that means. No wizards are entirely on the level).

A simple spell exists to check a willing wizard's Impact Factor. Using it front of your peers results in general mockery and masturbatory hand gestures.

Some spells allegedly inflate, alter, or completely obscure a caster's Impact Factor.
 

Pickman's Economic Model

Dick Pickman, highwayman-turned-professor-of-economics, postulated a theory that the catacombs of Endon contained enough portable wealth to enable any delver (on average) to earn more than they would at steady honest work. This "crypt-currency" was in finite supply; the first delvers in would be rich, the last would merely be mud-soaked and tired.

Students, being poor, easily convinced, and fairly risk-tolerant, flocked to the catacombs. The crypt-currency boom, and the associated side-trade in crypt-art and crypt-analysis, threatens to destabilize Endon's precarious gold-backed currency.

The environmental consequences of undermining Endon's foundations, dredging up forgotten evils, and loosing powerful spells in an already saturated region cannot be understated... or explained to students.
 

The Skull and Bones League

Dread Necromancy is illegal in Endon. Citizens, on average, treat rumours of necromancy with frenzied contempt. Loxdon College tries to balance academic investigation of the palatable aspects of necromancy with a powerful desire to avoid being burned to the ground by the mob.

The Skull and Bones League is a secret student club that debates potential societal improvements that necromancy could bring to Endon. Legions of tireless farmers. Horses that need no food, soldiers that need no pay. Miners who work without rest or air. The knowledge of the ancients, available for anyone. All very good on paper, of course. One member in every four is an informer, or at least someone who thinks they're in the club to keep an eye on the others. Despite rumours and a few macabre trophies, no necromancy is practiced by the League.

The actual secret necromancers of Loxdon College use the club as a convenient dumping ground for the inquisitive or a recruiting pool for talent.

Sean Andrew Murray

The Seven League League

Students, like anyone else, love stupid jokes. The Seven League League is named for the fabled "seven league boots", a magic item which (it properly calibrated), allows a wizard to step across the landscape at enormous speed. (Improperly calibrated boots allow part of a wizard to step across the landscape at enormous speed, and the rest of the wizard to remain behind.)

The League hosts impromptu races of all kinds. Any member can name a destination ("the spire of the Auld Grey Cathedral) and conditions ("without touching the ground") and, at an appointed time and after suitable bets, the race takes place. The survivors are showered in glory. It's a rambunctious and good-natured league. Members are perpetually short on funds, lightly concussed, and open to new and exciting innovations.
 

The Physical Enthusiasts

Effort, the saying goes, is for the Lower Class. The higher orders of Endon strive to avoid manual labour wherever possible. Hunting, shooting, military service, and thrashing servants requires a certain degree of fitness, but anything beyond the minimum is seen as unpleasantly rural.

Wizards are traditionally seen as bookish, emaciated by thought and strange energies, prematurely aged, and relatively feeble. Rebellious students invent strength-improving exercises, distill potions from the glands of cattle or apes, disassemble ancient enchantments, or simply engage in vigorous physical activity (during the daytime; nocturnal activities have taken place at Loxdon College since the invention of the candle).

Some students even train in pugilism, even though punching a trainee wizard's head is liable to result in a catastrophic explosion.

Sean Andrew Murray

Unintentional vs. Unintended Design

A buildy-crafty-type game adds a piston that can push other objects.

  • Intentional behavior: push other objects. 
  • Unintentional behavior: if you push a beehive, the game crashes.
  • Intended design: players can use it to make a secret door. The developers tested it. 
  • Unintended design: players can use it to make an elevator, a Turing-complete computer, and a cannon.

I intentionally added lots of interesting tools to MIR. I did not intend for these tools to be used in any specific way. I didn't want to add guidance on intent, because that would break the future-imperfect maybe-vagueness of MIR, it would feel overly prescriptive, and it might convince GMs that their players had to or should take certain routes.

The game isn't in the book. The book is just a tool to make the game easier. The really interesting bits happen at your table, based on your shared choices, and can't be predicted or steered. Improvise wildly. Follow leads. Link things that aren't explicitly connected but that could be connected. Take notes.

Still, since someone asked, here are some ways the PCs can make Loxdon College weirder.

  • Start a student newspaper. It's an obvious step, which is why I haven't written about a canonical one. Leave deliberate gaps in your worldbuilding and players might try to fill them.
  • Start a student union. Currently, students at Loxdon College are disorganized and fractious. Give them a Cause, and you might be surprised at the results.
  • Start a catering business. Cheap food, served on campus at all hours.
  • Throw failed experiments or cursed items down a drain and forget about them. 
  • Summon something squamous to gain otherworldly knowledge, then publish.
  • Invent a new field of study, then lecture in that field.
  • Raise funds for a new experimental building / Innovation / counter-Innovation.
  • Set up a new hall with byzantine entry requirements, rituals, or secrets.
  • Set up a rival College.