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Aug 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:
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!

Aug 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.

Aug 8, 2017

Austin's Weekday Routine 2017

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:

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 Bal√£o 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.

Aug 7, 2017

Vox Machina Critical Role Fanart

Geek & Sundry's Critical Role has inspired me greatly this past year, both to make new friends at work and to actually become a Dungeon Master! During their weekly show, they showcase a bunch of art submitted by the show's fans, so I finally made time to make this fanart and submit it. Hopefully it'll make it into a future episode's intermission, but if not, it was still a fulfilling piece of art to work on. It actually made me miss Knight Guy, which has officially been on hold for a year now :(

Anyway, below is a picture of the heroes of Critical role, Vox Machina. Enjoy!

Aug 2, 2017

Some Interesting Concept Art from the Warcraft III DVD

This is a somewhat informal video I made just to break the monotony between updates (my fanbase is getting quite anxious about any and all other Easter eggs I can find and upload to my channel which is great but exhausting!). A while ago I bought the Warcraft III Special Edition DVD, and this is basically my take on all the fan art found on it. And if you're considering buying the DVD on Amazon like I did, don't. It's not worth it. But hopefully the "Art of Warcraft" book I ordered this week is...