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Warcraft Resources for D&D 5e

Man, this is one of those projects I just look at and think "Did I really do all of this?" I've definitely got lost in this do...

Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Year Off

I'm tired. I'm tired of making so many projects that no one sees, and tired of having no time to work on the things that people do care about, like Knight Guy and the Warcraft 3 Easter Eggs series. And with me starting one last school degree this year to get certified in web development and coding, all while working full time, I've decided to take a year off from formal projects.

Will I still work on projects if I get excited about one? Sure! Will I still update this blog? Absolutely. In fact, the blog is one of the things I want to work on more, since I feel like I've neglected it for talking about things like nostalgia and relic projects—something I used to do and miss now.

I also just want to read more. I haven't red* anything long and engaging for years, now. I want to go back to old classics that I used to read as a kid, like Hatchet, Castle in the Attic, and The Seven Songs of Merlin, and look into new interesting series that I've wanted to try for a long time like Redwall. And I don't want to read them as audiobooks. I want to actually sit down with a good book and flip the pages and use a bookmark. I feel like a part of me from the past is missing, and this just feels like a way for me to bring it back.

I've also cut Facebook out of my life for the year! Or possibly forever. It's such a stupid waste of time.

Anyway, while I'm here, I thought I may as well showcase one more project I've been working on. It's basically just some "realism" homebrew rules for Dungeons & Dragons 5e. If you're interested, here are the links to two sets of them you might find fun for your own games:

Optional Realism Rules
Pregnancy Rules

I may update and fine-tune them from time to time, so feel free to check back on them and leave comments about them.

Anyway, here's to one more year of educational drudgery, in hopes of a career that will actually sustain my family and give me free time to work on stuff I care about!

_______
*Yes, I spelled it like "red." The past tense of "lead" is "led," so why isn't "read" the same way?! It's super hard to tell which it is since you have to rely on freaking context! I have an English language and editing degree. I reserve the right to use logic in place of what I know to be prescripted as the correct way.

Friday, December 1, 2017

A Christmas Carol Reading

A year ago, I made this audiobook reading for my mom as a Christmas present. It was a lot of fun to do a full-length project like this from start to finish. I learned a lot about what voice actors and audiobook performers have to go through, as well as how much the editing process plays a part in audio. It took me two days to record the 116-page novella, at a total of probably 6 or 7 hours of recording time (my voice was rather tired). After that, it was another 6 hours of editing as I listened to the entire thing and cut out all my mistakes, moments of dead air, etc. Finally, I had to listen to the whole thing over again, which ended up shortening to just about 2½ hours. Quite a bit of work for such a short production!

Still, I had a lot of fun, and the production turned out pretty nice overall. I had some fun with making the voices of three of the ghosts different, and someday it'd be fun to add background music and noises, á la Graphic Audio, but I dunno if that'll happen. Either way, I'll be listening to this production every year for sure!

To preserve the value of the recording as a gift, I waited a year to post it. But here it is for everyone! Merry Christmas!


Thursday, October 12, 2017

How to Lose 40 Pounds in 10 Months, and Keep It Off Forever


I never really was one to worry about my weight. I was always a pretty average-sized kid, and when I was a teenager, I ate all I wanted and my body never changed. But after getting married, the pounds slowly started packing on. I didn't really think much of it. I felt fine and took pride in my love of all foods and willingness to lick my plate clean with every meal so nothing was wasted. Besides, all my weight seemed to just go to my gut. I didn't really "look" fat at a glance. But once I hit 210 pounds, I decided it was time to lose some weight. Fast forward to today, nine months later, and I'm 40 pounds lighter! Let me tell you the keys to my incredibly successful weight loss story and you may find something that works for you.

1. It's all about the calories—not working out


That "before" picture was actually taken a bit earlier than when my weight loss journey this year started. I took it because I decided I was going to start going to the gym each morning before work. I began a discounted gym membership with my work and went and worked out each morning. I lifted weights one day and then ran on the eliptical every other day. After working out, I'd come back home ravenous and reward myself with a huge breakfast. I told myself all the while that I would lose weight from turning fat into muscle, and that at the end of the summer I'd be fit and back to a healthy weight.

It didn't work. I got a little bit stronger (for the first time in my life someone asked me "Have you been working out?"), but I weighed the same and still had my paunch. Eventually I gave up, mostly because I didn't feel like I fit in at the gym, but mostly because it just didn't seem to be making a big difference. Then my dad showed me the app LoseIt. I started counting my calories every day with a calorie budget, subtracting calories that I lost from exercising (all built in the app), and the results were immediate, significant, and satisfying.

I learned from experience that dieting is for your weight. Working out is for your shape. And the best part was, I didn't need to cut anything out of my diet. Just eat less of it. I could never stick to a routine where I couldn't eat my favorite foods ever again, or where I had to exercise a ton every day just to stay the same weight. One day I'd slip up, and that'd be the end of it. I'd just get right back to my old routines.

2. Smart eating


Using LoseIt, I learned a lot about how much I really needed to eat to get full, and eventually it even became a game to me, seeing how few calories I could consume each day while still feeling healthy. Turns out, we eat a lot more than we really need to. And on top of all that, I learned about which foods were calorie-rich and not worth eating. I've since cut a lot of cheese, dairy, and carbs out of my diet, and it's helped me make good habits that will help me keep my weight off. Forever. Did I ever splurge? Sure, I ate at Chuck-A-Rama with my wife once and gained 4 pounds in one day, but the next day I skipped breakfast, ate a salad for lunch, and drank lots of cleansing lemon water and was back on track the next day.

One trick I learned to stay full around lunch time is to eat two mini-lunches instead of one big one. If you eat half of your lunch at 11:30 and the other half at 1:30, you stay full for a bigger part of the afternoon, and eliminate time that you usually spend snacking. Losing weight is all about covering all your weight-loss bases, whether that be eliminating bad habits, planning ahead for different situations, and so forth.

3. Slow and steady


Everyone wants to lose weight immediately. Everyone wants to be instantly and eternally skinny or fit. But the fact is, your body likes being fat. It's still got its caveman tendencies of "I don't know when my next meal will be, so better stock up!", so it'll turn against you time and time again unless y
ou take it slow. When I stuck to a calorie budget over the period of 9 or 10 months, my body slowly adapted to me eating less, trusting me and forming a new base weight where it could enjoy homeostasis. So many diets make you lose a ton at once, which your body is fine with because it just thinks you're going through a food famine. But as soon as you make one mistake, you blow up like a balloon and are back at square one. I got to my goal weight of 170, and it's been easy as pie for me to stay at or around that weight, even if I'm eating pie. As long as you weigh yourself every morning and never let yourself get more than 5 pounds over your goal weight, it's a piece of cake to stay at your goal weight. Even if you eat cake.

That's another thing—weigh yourself every day. For the rest of your life. I've heard some people say they get anxiety or get frustrated when they weigh themselves every day because they get worried when they don't see results, but that's ridiculous. If you don't weigh yourself, you're not being accountable to yourself on a regular basis. Of course you're going to plateau sometimes, but the trick is to look at the long-term. Don't get discouraged if at the 10% mark you haven't lost 10% of your goal weight. Just keep doing the same things day after day, and one day you'll look at yourself in the mirror and see your collarbone again, or you'll have to drill a new hole in your belt, or your pajama pants will start falling down.

Conclusion


Weight loss doesn't have to be impossible or hard. You don't have to accept your heavy body the way it is. If you just commit to a steady, simple calorie budget; weigh yourself every day, and work on changing your habits, your body will do all the work for you in creating a new body for yourself. If you take it slow, it'll trust you more, and you'll find a new baseline for your body to feel comfortable at. It'll make it a lot harder for your body to bounce back to your old ways. The best part of all is that once you're done losing, you're done! Forever! You can splurge more often, eat those desserts you crave, and indulge on the things that other diets say are forbidden. Your habits will ensure that you don't go back to the way you used to eat, and you'll enjoy feeling better on a regular basis, thinner and in control.

Friday, September 15, 2017

A Year of Selfies!

For the past year, I've been taking a selfie every day. I've been looking forward to finally compiling all of them into this video, with my theme song in the background! I've also lost 35 pounds since February, so it's fun to see that pretty visibly too. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Project: D&D Item Sheet

Since D&D has become a bigger part of my life over the past few months, I've been having a huge interest in compiling resources and making the DMing process as streamlined as possible. My latest venture has been copying all of the items from the Dungeon Master's Guide into a Google Sheet for easy filtering by rarity, item type, etc. After doing this, I decided to have some fun and adapt the artifacts from Heroes of Might and Magic III and the items from Warcraft III into D&D 5th edition as well. They've been one of the most amazing sources of inspiration for me. It's fun to try and adapt things like morale bonuses and Warcraft mechanics into D&D's system. Here are a few examples of the items and my take on what they do in D&D:
***
Hearthstone
Wondrous item, rare

This item resembles a round, polished stone with a faintly glowing blue rune imprinted on it. In order to attune to the hearthstone, you must spend 10 minutes meditating and holding the stone, at which point an invisible destination mark is placed at your location. After this attunement takes place, you can speak the command word and spend 1 minute holding the stone and concentrating on it, after which you instantly transport yourself and everything you are carrying back to the mark, even if it is on a different plane of existence. Once being used this way, the hearthstone cannot be used again for 24 hours. You can create a new destination mark at any time, spending the 10 minutes of concentration again. If you break your attunement with the hearthstone or if someone else attunes to it, the mark you have made vanishes.

Khadgar's Pipe of Insight
Wondrous item, very rare

When this intricately crafted pipe is smoked by a spellcaster during a short rest, any spellcasters within the 30-foot faint smoke cloud regain spell slots with a combined level of equal to or less than a third of the smoker's spellcasting level (minimum 3), similar to the Arcane Recovery ability of wizards. In addition, all creatures within the smoke with an Intelligence score of at least 11 who can speak a language gain the ability to cast the prestidigitation cantrip until their next long or short rest. The pipe can only be smoked in this way once per dawn.

Ancient Janggo of Endurance
Wondrous item, uncommon

If you use your activity while traveling to beat on this janggo during a forced march, all members of your party have advantage on the Constitution saving throws to avoid exhaustion. If you are proficient in the Performance skill while doing this, all party members also get a bonus to their roll equal to your Performance skill modifier.

Amulet of the Undertaker
Wondrous item, very rare

If you die while wearing this coffin-shaped amulet, you immediately rise as a zombie, using the stats of the zombie found in the Monster Manual, except your Intelligence score matches the one you had in life. You can use your items as normal, but you count as Undead and cannot regain lost hit points. If you reduce a creature to 0 hit points using your Attack action while in zombie form, your body is restored to life with 1 hit point, and the amulet turns to dust. You suffer the -4 penalty condition matching that of the resurrection spell thereafter. If you are reduced to 0 hit points while in zombie form or if the amulet of the undertaker is removed from your person in this form, you and your zombie form are utterly destroyed.

The Grail
Wondrous item, artifact

This resembles a dazzling, expertly crafted golden chest, lined with pearls and topped with an ornate golden crest. The Grail sheds bright light in a 30-foot radius and dim light 30 feet beyond that. No one knows what is inside the chest, as it is magically sealed and impossible to open. As long as the Grail is above ground and not surrounded by dirt or buried, divine blessings follow it wherever it goes. The following effects apply within a 1-mile radius of the Grail:
  • All plant life is immune to disease and become "enriched" as per the plant growth spell; any diseases the plants currently have fade after 1d4 days upon entering the Grail's radius.
  • Pests and vermin within the radius feel afraid of the Grail and avoid it, making efforts to move away from it over time.
  • Humanoids and beasts within the radius are affected as if by the protection from evil and good spell.
  • All food and drink within the radius is purified, as per the purify food and drink spell.
  • All humanoids and beasts who die within the radius are affected immediately with the gentle repose spell, but cannot be affected more than once by it.
It is likely that villages and towns recognize the holder of the Grail as a great and noble leader, and they are likely to want to build a structure to keep the Grail above ground and guarded. Enemies or rivals of the Grail's town may attempt to steal the Grail or seize it through violent means. 
The Grail cannot be destroyed, but its effects can be suppressed if it is interred in the earth or surrounded by dirt. In this situation, its effects fade over the course of 1d6 days, and it is affected as if by a nondetection spell. Within 10 miles of this location, mysterious writings, riddles, engravings, and clues work their way into books, stone and wood carvings, and other forms of language. Those who are seeking the Grail can follow these riddles to eventually narrow down its location and unearth it.
***

Kudos if you recognize any of the names of these items! If you'd like to look at my sheet, feel free to check it out here, It may be incomplete for a while yet, and I may add new additions to it in the future that you'll find useful if you're a DM, such as monster creation guides or spells. Either way, I always love me a good project!

Monday, August 28, 2017

What the 2017 Eclipse Was Like in the Totality Zone

I come from a small town in Idaho of little renown outside of the Latter-day Saint community, and even within it if you don't live in the West. But this year, it finally got some regard due to forces completely out of its control:

An amazing, nationwide, total solar eclipse.

My town was right exactly in the path of the eclipse's totality! This meant that it was one of the perfect places in the entire world to watch a total solar eclipse. People came from all over the world to see it, though not as many as Rexburg and the surrounding areas expected. All the stores embraced their one chance of tourism fame, selling everything from eclipse glasses to eclipse-themed items like Moon Pies and Sun Chips. State troopers were called from Montana and porta-potties were set up on the highways. It was almost a disaster alert situation—residents were advised to expect huge delays, run out of gas, run out of food in the stores, and even have the entire freeway blocked up by foreign motorists who didn't know American driving laws.

But it wasn't that bad. The traffic a couple days before and the night of the eclipse were bad (changing 4 hours into 9 or 10), but luckily, I didn't have to worry about that since we left the next day and only had 1 extra hour tacked on.

So the amazing experience of totality was completely worth it to me!

For those of you who saw a partial eclipse, even a 90% one, I pity you. It's true. With a grand, amazing celestial event like this, there is no "at least." "At least we got to see a 90% eclipse." No. There's a reason that such a bold word dripping with absoluteness is used to describe the event: "Totality." That's because it transcends anything else that you can possibly imagine. At the point of totality, it ceased becoming an eclipse and became something more—almost something utterly alien to this world or even to this dimension of mortality.

If you were one of the unlucky to miss totality, you should know I was like you, at first. When the sun began to be consumed by the moon and I could see it in my eclipse glasses, I was amazed. It was so interesting to see the perfect sphere of light being slowly transformed into a Pac-Man. But the eclipse really didn't change that much for the vast majority of its duration, did it? Even at about 80%, I couldn't tell any difference when looking around. It was an amazing testament to me as to how amazingly, inconceivably powerful the sun's rays are.

And then, at around 90%, things started to get weird. Even though the shadows were still late-morning length, the actual brightness of everything outside was disturbingly dim. It felt like my eyes were playing tricks on me, and like the world was losing its luster. I'd look around at the grass and even at my skin, and it felt like I wasn't looking at real things. The world wasn't ever this dark. Not when the sky was still blue. It was kind of as if a storm was coming... the temperature even dropped about 15 degrees.

And that's probably all you got to see if you weren't in totality. It got a bit weird and shady as the moon changed the sun into the hairliniest of crescents, and then things got back to normal.

Let me tell you what you missed, and again, I pity you, and I'm sorry that no known technology can replicate it. It's something you have to experience, and I am so glad that I was able to.

The moment the moon makes contact with the edge of the sun and starts to eclipse it is known as C1. C2 is the moment it covers the sun completely. A couple of minutes before C2, things got even weirder. We had a white sheet set out to see the "shadow bands." No one's quite sure what causes the shadow bands, but we definitely saw them in the moments before totality. Strange, wavy lines coarsed across the world, and looking at the bed sheet let us see them more clearly. It was like being in a car and driving throw some wispy trees—the shadows all pointed the same direction, like a bunch of fleeing snakes from the Shadowfell. We looked up one last time with our glasses to see the tiny hair of the sun disappear to black—And then, the moment finally happened.


I'm so sad that this is the best picture that can be taken of totality. Again, it's something that just has to be experienced to be truly appreciated. The way light works on cameras and then rebroadcasted from screens just isn't the same as what your eyes can see.

Totality was indescribable, but I'll do my best. In every direction was a 360-degree sunset; a few stars and planets came out in the dark sky; the birds went silent; the grass became wet with dew underfoot; and up in the sky was the best part: an enormous, resplendent silver ring. The corona of the sun shone behind the dark orb of the moon, hanging in space like a beautiful and terrible omen.

It blew my mind to see something so majestic and alien. I had heard that experiencing totality was a life-changing experience, but nothing could have prepared us for that incredible spectacle. It would've been worth a much longer trip to see it. I understood in that moment why so many had traveled so far just to experience two minutes of it.

The eclipse lasted two minutes, but it felt like 30 seconds. I began to see molten red beads forming around the edge of the moon, and though I wanted to keep watching, I knew it was over and looking any more may burn the sight into my retinas. So the moment ended, and I'm left now with only the memory of that indescribable majesty.

The time after the eclipse (from C3 to C4) seemed insignificant compared to those two minutes. I don't think I even really looked through the glasses again. As robins went about their confused morning routine looking for worms, I spent my time marveling at the absolute luck I had to experience something so grandiose. How in all of creation did I happen to be born during a time where the moon was the exact distance away from the earth to create such an effect? Eons ago, the moon was too big, and in eons to come, it will be too small to ever cause totality again. I happened to be born at the right time, and was lucky to be living near the right place, to experience something so unearthly and mind-boggling.

It was a spiritual experience, to be sure. I hate to sound flippant, but it was almost like God was performing a magic trick for all of humanity under the moon's shadow. It was something no one could fully understand, and it brought all of creation into perspective, at least for me. The cosmos is incomprehensibly vast, and to think that life could exist on a floating rock, and that the rock's orbiting moon and the solar system's star could combine in such a way to cause something like beauty and wonder was inspiring beyond anything I could have hoped for. Just like photos can't capture its beauty, media and journalism and written words can't capture the reality and presence of God.

I went to my home town that week expecting something amazing, but nothing can prepare you for the scope of how amazing it can possibly be. Just like the Holy Spirit or anything else truly sublime in this world, you have to experience it for yourself to appreciate it.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Austin's Weekday Routine

My life has been in such a same-old same-old routine lately that decided to jazz it up by immortalizing it for no reason and writing it down. And who knows? Maybe you'll find my life more interesting than I do. Probably not, though.

Austin's Weekday Routine

Every morning my alarm goes off at 6:00, playing "78 Eatonwood Green." I hit the snooze once or twice, then get up and weigh myself. I've been on a diet based entirely on counting calories for the past seven or eight months, and have lost more than 30 pounds, and I'm currently wanting to lose just 10 more pounds and get down to 170. After I shower, I put on my tan khaki cargo pants (I would wear my tan cargo khaki shorts, but my workplace overdoes the AC, so it's too cold to) and a shirt, and go to make breakfast.

I used to be elaborate with my breakfasts, but since starting my low-calorie, high-protein diet, I generally only have an egg or two on toast, and sometimes a small bowl of whatever cereal we have. I like my eggs over easy, and I like to poke a hole in the yolk and drizzle the runny part over my toast before putting the egg itself on it. I also like my egg with chipotle pepper (or some other random spice sometimes) and green onions. While I'm cooking my egg, I play Hearthstone on my phone and try to clear the quests for the day. I also use this time to assemble my lunch.

Usually my kids get up around this time, and I get them some breakfast if I have time. Otherwise, eventually my phone alarm alerts me with Smash Mouth's "Holiday in My Head" that it's time to go. I brush my teeth, shave if my neck is itching too much or my goatee needs trimmed, kiss my sleeping wife goodbye, and head out the door.

I listen to the Critical Role podcast on my way to work. After clocking in at work, I open all the internet tabs I'll be using for the day. My work Gmail, my personal Gmail, my work chat, and my work spreadsheets. I also check the Dorkly comic of the day and check Facebook briefly. I fill up my 32-oz. water bottle at the drinking fountain and try to drink as much of it as I can. It helps me wake up and get me hydrated for the day. I've carried it around with me ever since I had a kidney stone in 2012).

Now comes the work, which consists of various stages of project management. It varies from day to day, but a single process from start to finish goes like this:

Titles
I look at the link of our client's website and come up with a blog title that would fit their keyword and that would be able to be posted on one of the sites we have a familiar relationship with. Business and health articles are easy to place, but sometimes it pays to be creative and somehow try and connect the ideas of law and pets, for example. I come up with all the titles needed, trying to come up with alliterative preambles or catchy idioms to give them some flair, and chat them to my team mentor, who checks them for me. I always have to do this in the morning. This part of my brain doesn't work after lunch.

Freelance Writers
After coming up with the titles, I write instructions for freelance writers to come up with the actual content. During this and the title stage, I listen to music on YouTube—mostly medieval tavern music, video game soundtracks, or 90s instrumental music. But nothing with words in it, since this is distracting when I'm having to come up with words of my own. I usually leave this task to the end of the day, the last thing I do before I go home.

Editing, Stock Photos, and Submission
The bulk of the day is spent in this stage. Once the content is written, I copy it into Word and edit it. Then I find a stock image on Pixabay or Pexels for each article, and submit it to a blog for publication. Every two days after that, I follow up with publishers until I give up or until they respond, whether to schedule an article or (more likely) to tell me they charge to accept free content. This part of work is easier and doesn't require much focus, so while doing it I listen to the latest episode of Critical Role, LindyBeige, Vsauce, or the Adventure Zone. When I don't have articles to edit or submit, I try and find new blogs online to publish on, organize my information on spreadsheets, or chat about D&D with my coworkers.

At precisely 11:30 a.m., I heat up my lunch (usually leftovers—Brazilian feijoada is a common favorite) and eat half of it. Unless it's one of the two Wednesdays of the month that my work team goes out to lunch. In that case, we all leave at 12:00 and enjoy a free lunch at a random restaurant, or order takeout and eat it while watching Netflix in a conference room.

At noon, I usually only take about a half hour lunch just taking a break, playing Hearthstone on my phone, writing in my journal, reading, or working on a video or other project if I have one I'm really into. But on Tuesdays and Thursdays, I get to play Dungeons & Dragons with five of my fellow coworkers! When I'm not taking a turn being the Dungeon Master, I play a high elf phoenix sorcerer named Xilmar, and I adventure with my friends, Nysae the wood elf ranger and her wolf Luna, Christoff the human paladin, Ari the human rogue, Gorthuk the half-orc voodoo cleric, and Julian the high elf wizard. It's the highlight of my week, and it's always a shame that we only get two hours to play each week.

After my break, I eat the other half of my lunch at 1:30, and my dessert, whatever it might be. The hours seem to crawl by from about 2:30 to 4:00, but once it's 4:00, the rest of the day flies by. I clock out at 5:00 and drive home, listening to Critical Role and eating Spitz Smoky BBQ sunflower seeds.

I greet my kids when I get home (or, if the missus and the kids are out running errands, I enjoy some alone time), and make dinner. I'm the primary cook in the house, mostly by preference. I love to cook and try new recipes, and I care a lot about how the food turns out. My wife cooks too on occasion, but she's satisfied sometimes just eating cereal or a protein shake for a meal—something I can't identify with.

While eating dinner, the family and I watch Avatar: The Last Airbender, The Replacements, Studio C, or some other TV show. Or else we just talk and listen to music on Pandora based on the nationality of the food (For example, Mariachi Radio for Mexican food). At around 7:00, I put one or both of the kids to bed, but not before reading my daughter a chapter of Sideways Stories from Wayside School if she's been good that day. When I put my son to bed, I rock him in the rocking chair while singing him Portuguese songs like "O Balão vai Subindo" and "A Baratinha," or sometimes Celtic songs by Kate Rusby like "Wild Mountain Thyme."

After the kids are in bed, I enjoy a dessert (I try not to eat anything after 8:00, but sometimes it's unavoidable), and depending on the night and my wife's availability and mood, I may watch a movie or TV show with her, play Heroes of the Storm with my brothers online, work on a project, or post a weird article on my blog that hardly anyone will read, like this one.

That's my routine! Chances are, if it's a weekday, I had a day like this this very day.