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Aug 20, 2019

Austin's Weekday Routine 2019

It was kind of fun to read my last article I did like this, so I thought it'd be a good idea to update it now that it's a little over two years later.

Austin's Weekday Routine

My life is a lot more chill now that I don't have an hourly wage job. My alarm goes off at 6:45 every morning, playing "Fishing" from the Runescape soundtrack. It's kind of a pain to press snooze or turn the alarm off, since my phone cord isn't very long and I have to hang it inside the pocket of my shorts or pants that hang next to my bed. I usually snooze at least once or twice and cuddle with my wife while we both wake up. After a couple of snoozes, when her alarm gets up, or when our early-rising children sound like they're getting into trouble or raiding the fridge and eating all the pickes, berries, and string cheese, we get up.

First things first, I go to the downstairs bathroom (which has a walk-in shower I like better than the tub one upstairs) for my morning bowel movement on the Squatty Potty. While doing my business, I look at the IMDB Born Today list on my phone and add to a list I made on IMDB (You know me—I like to document perfection).

After my legs fall asleep (I should probably not spend as much time as I currently do, but like I said, my schedule is much more chill), I weigh myself if I remember to, take a shower, then go upstairs and get dressed and take my two Buproprion for the day. I take three on Saturdays because for some reason I get a weird sort of boredom/depression if I'm at home for too long with too much free time, but two are fine if I'm going out of the house, working, etc.

I've been great with my diet over the past couple of years. I lost 40 pounds and then gained 5 back, so I usually hover around ~175 pounds. I still don't really like big breakfasts ever since I started the habit of just having an egg on toast and a very small bowl of cereal for breakfast-dessert, but I do like brunches, which I usually make on weekends. The kids are usually clamoring for food excessively by this point as well, so I get them some cereal and milk if it's not too late in the morning. After that, I brush my teeth, give my kids and wife hugs and kisses, and head out the door.

I always listen to podcasts on the way to work, generally D&D actual-play podcasts. The current one I'm listening to is called the Damage Guild, and it's okay, I guess... I finished listening to the all 115 chapters of the first season of Critical Role for the second time a few months ago, and after getting caught up with the Titans of All'Terra, I'm still trying to find one that I look forward to listening to each day. I think it's all about the DM's level of engagement. Anyway, it's only about a 12-minute drive to work, but lately it takes at least 15, sometimes 20, because of all the construction.

Work
When I get to work, I park my car in the most distant parking lot, four or five spots from the west side. Since I'm terrible at exercising, this along with walking up the four flights of stairs to my work floor instead of ever using the elevator is my attempt at getting some in without much effort, and I think it's healthy for me. The first thing I do when I get to my desk is fill my water bottle. I'm not sure what happened to my bigger one, but for now I have one from the place I got my coding certification at, MTECH. Then, I log into my account, read the daily Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal comic, check my email, and review my work tickets for the day.

Our team works in a Scrum framework, so my work process is generally predictable and linear each day. If I don't have a ticket, I find one on our Scrum board, assign it to myself, read it over, and create a branch for it to work on. I spend time programming it, making any automation tests needed, and when I'm ready, I put the branch online for peer review. After two of my fellow teammates have reviewed and approved it, it gets merged and published, and the process starts over again. If they find mistakes, I fix those and continue the review process. I usually have one branch I'm working on and one in peer review at any given time.

At 11:00 every day, we have our "Stand Up" meeting. Our whiteboard of ticket progress is wheeled into one of the conference rooms, we connect via Microsoft Teams to anyone working remotely, and then explain what's on our work docket for the day. I like how it keeps everyone accountable, but sometimes there's simply not much to do, so I work on my yearly company goals.

I tend to work really fast and take lots of breaks. It's kind of a weird system of productivity, but for me it works. I'll program for 10–20 minutes, then take a 20-minute break to make notes for my D&D campaigns or read an article on The Monsters Know What They're Doing, or one of the other many D&D blogs I have marked in my favorites. Then it's back to work, maybe a break to transcribe a page or two of the Book of Mormon, which is a new scripture study method I discovered this year that works well for me, work on a Google Docs project, and so on. Work is almost too relaxing for me, which makes me wonder if I have superhuman speed at getting things done or if my team just needs to assign more tickets each sprint.

Every three weeks, our work sprint comes to an end and we have a day of treats or team lunch, followed by a couple of hours of sprint retrospective and planning ahead. Otherwise, I spend my lunch hour reading (lately it's been the Westmark trilogy by Lloyd Alexander, or the latest D&D release). Wednesdays are my favorite day of the week, because I get to spend from 11:25 to 1:00 pm playing D&D with my work group! I've been the DM for the better part of the year for the gnome sorcerer Snackle Timbers, elf noble rogue Travaldus "Zeke" Gershwin, human abjuror Valera "Mom" Edgwood, tiefling bard/warlock Owen Viktor, and Urgbar the dwarf barbarian; but soon we'll be switching DMs like my group at Boostability did, and I'm excited to play my goliath monk, Paavu "Steadyhand" Koloa-Olathi. Even though my fellow players and I only get to play this hour and a half a week, it's been a lot of fun and we've been able to craft quite the story for their adventuring group, Momma O'Snazzy (Mom + Owen + Snackle + Zeke).

The longest part of the day is usually from 2:00–3:00, when I get sleepy. Sometimes in the company's Microsoft Teams I get a notification that the lunchroom has snacks restocked or that the higher-ups in the company have leftovers in the break room, but otherwise afternoons are pretty samey each day. I'm usually done for the day at 4:30. To avoid even worse construction on the other side of the highway, I head home a different way. It may or may not be faster, but it's less stressful, and there's one road that dips down at a 16° angle, which is fun.

Back Home
If my wife and kids are home when I get there, I greet them and play with them for a while. Otherwise, I try to get some productive moments to myself on my latest project for my YouTube channel or D&D campaign. Around 5:00, my wife or I administer a daily enema to my son, who was born with an imperforate anus. It was a bit inconvenient at first to take an hour out of each evening to flush his system out, but we got used to it pretty quickly, so it's just part of our daily routine.

I usually make dinner, but if the enema is started too late or if the kids are too tired and need to go to bed early, we don't get to spend much time together at the dinner table. We try our best to read some passages from Come Follow Me to the kids, and then try and get them to bed before 7:30 (since they get up so early). The kids love mom best when it comes to tucking them in, but my wife and I try to take turns. If it's my son's turn, I turn on his sound machine, help him say his prayers, and then sing him a song. His favorites are "The Blooming Heather," "Autumn Day," "It's Raining Tacos," and "The Alligator King." I love when he sings along with me.

Otherwise, I read a chapter or so from a book to my daughter. We just finished the two books in the Castle in the Attic series, and now we're starting to read The Hobbit! I'm hoping it'll give her a crash course in high fantasy for future D&D playing together. After that, most likely I'll start reading her Harry Potter.

Evening
After the kids are in bed, it's quiet time. I eat my dessert for the day and either work on a project, play a computer game, or watch a TV show or movie with the missus. Currently, I'm in between projects, so it feels a bit weird. I hate limbo periods. Hopefully I'll get excited about something else soon. Once I get my YouTube check, I'm sure I'll be able to buy some new D&D material for me to read. Speaking of D&D, if I'm lucky, I get to play a session of D&D with my wife, brother, and sister-in-law; and Fridays are my online D&D game with my childhood best friend. D&D is such a huge part of my life now, as you can probably see with my last few entries (and this one). I wonder if my daily routine will always have this much related to it for the rest of my life. 

If I'm nice to myself, I go to bed at around 10:30 or 11:00, but lately with watching Attack on Titan season 3, nights have gone on pretty late. I pray, plug my phone into the wall and put it in the pocket of my hanging shorts or cargo pants, and go to sleep spooning my wife under the glow-in-the-dark stars I put on our ceiling when we first moved here.

And that's my routine this year! Maybe in a couple more I'll do this again. Last year was a garbage year that I'd rather not remember, so with that as an exception, who knows? This could be another fun tradition.

Aug 14, 2019

4 D&D Tables for Exploration Inspiration

Along with coming up with homebrew rules and features for Dungeons & Dragons 5e, I've also been compiling lists of just general ideas for elements to put into future campaigns. I figured I may as well share them here for your use in campaigns, if you wish. Especially since I'll probably keep accumulating ideas faster than I can implement them. Feel free to roll on a table if you need inspiration.

1d12 Interesting NPCs

  1. A young woman who red books about the other planes as a child and who has always dreamed of visiting another realm of existence.
  2. An old man who always talks about all the things he had in his childhood village that was destroyed. He wishes he could go back and get his things someday.
  3. A man with a mental or physical condition or is essentially a vegetable in bed. His wife is overwhelmed with taking care of him and secretly wishes he would die so she can move on with her life.
  4. A guy who misses his sweetheart in his home village a few days' travel away. (She's since married to someone else, but he doesn't know this)
  5. A single dad who just wants his son to get a good education in the city instead of being a poor farmhand (The kid's super smart, but the family's poor).
  6. A woman who wants the PCs to take her son as an apprentice adventurer.
  7. A mysterious ranger with a stutter, with many tokens of extremely dangerous beasts around his neck.
  8. A young awkward man who thinks the only way he can get a girl to marry him is by becoming an adventurer.
  9. A halfling merchant who sells "discount spell components." 33% the price, but have a 50% chance of failing and wasting the spell cast (e.g., a cubic zirconia gem that can be used as a diamond component in raise dead, but only costs 250 gp)
  10. A paladin who has sworn a vow of silence. His warhorse has had an awaken spell placed upon it and speaks for him.
  11. A half-orc that sounds stupid when speaking Common but very intelligent and dapper when speaking Orcish.
  12. A wizard who tattoos spells on his skin with the arcane ink instead of into a spellbook. The ones he has prepared glow faintly.

1d20 Plot Hooks

  1. An old stone statue on a mountain is actually the petrified body of an ancient hero. Or maybe his body was broken into several pieces and scattered to different towns as relics.
  2. It starts snowing in the summer or having some other type of weird weather. A storm giant or insane druid might be to blame.
  3. The adventurers reach a town being threatened by a swooping young green dragon. A lone hero is charging the town all their money in return for slaying it. He's actually in a deal with the green dragon's father, and if the heroes actually kill the dragon instead of fake-killing it like he planned to, he could be in huge trouble with its parent.
  4. A thief steals an artifact from an NPC, location, or PC, and flees into a cave. He's found dead inside the cave, killed by traps, and something deeper within the cave has taken the artifact farther within.
  5. The party receives a letter that begins "Once upon a time there were four adventurers..." describing the PCs exactly, and ending with "Little did they know that someone was plotting their doom..."
  6. A furious storm hits the PCs, to the point where they start taking cold damage and exhaustion if they don't take shelter. A nearby barrow den or cave may as well be explored while they wait for the storm to end.
  7. A bard wishes to obtain an instrument of wonder and hires the PCs to find one from an ancient bard's tomb.
  8. A druid or ranger who hates civilization is sending animals and plant creatures to harass a town.
  9. A crying woman pleads with you to save her kidnapped baby from a werebear in the woods. The baby is actually a werebear cub, and the woman is actually a hag in disguise.
  10. A desert peak rages with a swirling sandstorm, which is actually a storm giant quintessant. It guards a lamp wherein lies a genie who will grant a single wish for its freedom.
  11. Bandits seem to know exactly where each trading caravan is at any given time. A shopkeeper is an informant, as evidenced by his caravans never getting robbed.
  12. The PCs find a map showing their country, but with four cities on it that they have never heard of.
  13. A wizard wants a live specimen of a troll to study.
  14. A kingdom has been ruled by an ancient gold dragon king for centuries. His wyrmling prince son has been kidnapped by an evil princess and must be saved.
  15. A player's personal business is sneakily taken over by a doppelganger, or worse, a rakshasa.
  16. A graveyard holds the key to a quest's completion, but a retired paladin keeps a very watchful eye on you and vows to kill you if you desecrate the holy place.
  17. People are dying in their sleep in a specific district of town. If the PCs fall asleep in that district and fail on a DC 15 Wisdom saving throw, they enter a dream world. All damage dealt to them is psychic damage in the dream, and they can focus (with Wisdom checks, probably) to manipulate the dream world in small ways as they find out what is going on.
  18. The players are summoned by an extraplanar creature using the conjure humanoids spell. They are dominated until the creature's concentration breaks. Afterward, if they die, they reform in the Material Plane, but all their possessions would stay in the other plane.
  19. The sun freezes in place in the sky, and the day/night cycle stops. The Diamond of the World was stolen from an ancient cave and must be returned to bring the world back to normal.
  20. A cleric has been framed for a crime by a cambion posing as a captain of the guard who wishes to sacrifice him.

1d20 Traps and Puzzles

  1. A magical barrier prevents all metal from passing through it. In order to pass, you must remove all metal from your person.
  2. A stone giant engraving shows the answer to a riddle if a light source is placed at a certain point, showing shadows in hidden angles to the engraving.
  3. A large handprint engraving on a door has holes at each fingertip. When the correct fingers are placed in each hole (it will require more than one person due to the hand's size), the door will open.
  4. A gypsy caravan parks next to the side of the road and offers food in exchange for directions. They also perform for the PCs if they agree, singing and dancing. Wisdom saving throw (DC 14, at disadvantage if they drank the wine the gypsies offered). On a failure, they become enraptured by the music. After one more hour of singing and one more Wisdom saving throw, a second failure puts a PC to sleep. The gypsies steal from any sleeping players and are gone when they wake up.
  5. Luminous fey lichen growing on a cave wall reacts to emotions of those near it, changing color and temperature depending on the nearby creatures' moods.
  6. A lake of boiling water blocks the path.
  7. Every minion in the dungeon has a key, but only one of them (at random) is the correct one.
  8. A hallway with a precious elven artifact at the end of it. The farther down the hallway you go, the more you age. Only a young elf can make it all the way down without dying of old age, since it ages you 500 years by the time you reach the end of it.
  9. A basin of water lies in the middle of the misty room. At the bottom of the water is a strange symbol, but it is a red herring—the real danger is the hallucinogenic mist.
  10. Opening a door triggers a pit trap in the room, but the door's just a facade. The real exit from the room is at the bottom of the pit.
  11. A room has three pressure plates that must be pressed simultaneously. When this occurs, force walls appear forcing the PCs to fight ghouls individually. When a ghoul dies, the player can move through the force walls.
  12. A strangely intelligent chicken wanders around the dungeon. If the chicken is killed and eaten, that person is true polymorphed (DC 19) into a chicken.
  13. A small silver hand mirror shows a different reflection than the creature who looks in it. If gazed into for more than a few seconds, the one gazing into the mirror must make a DC 16 Charisma saving throw or have their face transformed into that of the creature of the mirror. Their own former visage replaces that which the mirror once held. The mirror never works on the same being twice in a row. The first person who looked at the mirror is walking around without a face somewhere. (Or maybe they're in another room in this dungeon...)
  14. A pristine-looking house in the middle of a dilapidated old village is actually a gargantuan mimic! (Use an encounter with 4 mimics skinned as one)
  15. The local peasants say that to enter the nearby dungeon, you must take the ashes of horse bones and sprinkle them over the threshold, then speak the magic words in Halfling. It turns out, the dungeon door just has a flawed mechanism that makes it only open once every 4 times you try. The rest is mislaid superstition.
  16. A field of saturated mana where slots are not expended. Instead, you take force damage equal to 1d8 x the spell’s level each time you cast. Cantrips deal 1d4 force damage instead.
  17. Cursed ground prevents any spell higher than 2nd level from being cast. Higher spell slots are cast at 1st level. Great for a higher-level party.
  18. A super creepy and suspicious tunnel that ends with a blanket-covered treasure chest. No traps. Possibly the treasure chest is full of gems covered in clay.
  19. A room contains a couch, clock, and table with a bowl of fruit on it. The door locks behind the group, and they must find out that turning the clock backward and forward changes the flow of time in the room for its objects, including the fruit and the door.
  20. A dangerous-looking room that’s actually completely disabled with a key in the wall on the other side. Remove the key, and the trap begins again.

1d12 Discoveries and Encounters

  1. A forlorn altar on the top of a hill has runes that glow every night of a full moon. If a silver cup of water is placed on the altar before midnight, it will be enchanted to be a potion of greater restoration.
  2. A graveyard where animals come to die reanimates—tons of different skeletal dogs and cats and stuff attack. Easy to kill, but swarms.
  3. An old tribal woman (perhaps a goliath), fighting for her life against a pack of wolves. If you kill the wolves, she scolds you, saying that her time had come to die and she wanted to go out in an honorable way.
  4. A roped off area with warning signs (“no metal!”). A giant lodestone stands embedded in the earth with weapons and pieces of metal stuck to it. Characters wearing metal who get too close get sucked toward it (DC 14 Strength saving throw).
  5. A super creepy farmhouse that has absolutely nothing wrong with it and nothing inside it of value to be found.
  6. A shining diamond or gold vein shines exposed in a rock. Several dead kobolds lay scattered about with their brains knocked out. It’s actually an earth elemental that doesn’t want to be hit with pickaxes.
  7. A “desert medusa” with cobras for hair that turns people into sandstone, or a hydra medusa whose gaze turns people into gold.
  8. A rogue clockwork kraken that looks like a clock tower.
  9. A troll with a 10-foot radius of magical silence following it. Dangerous if encountered at night.
  10.  A wide chasm in a desert with the ruined remains of an ancient land bridge. A humming blur nearby is a thinning in the rift between the material plane and the Shadowfell, which can be opened by expending a spell slot of 2nd level or higher (DC 13 Arcana check to realize this). In the Shadowfell’s mirrored version of the world, the bridge is intact, but shades and an ogre skeleton are threatening there.
  11. You free a young bronze dragon in a dungeon. The dragon fights by your side, but a powerful spellcaster polymorphs the dragon into a crystal. Thereafter, you have a crystal that can allow you to summon the dragon for 5 seconds per day, to allow you to fly, breathe lightning, or use its prodigious strength. Maybe at some point in the future, an adventure could unlock the crystal so that you could have the dragon as a semi-permanent companion.
  12. Beehives that have enchanted honeycomb due to the bees getting the nectar from magical flowers nearby. Or, the honey makes you lucky because it’s from lucky clovers

Aug 5, 2019

The Incredible Machine Song Lyrics

I remember the PC game The Incredible Machine with much fondness, and I miss it dearly—Its spiritual successor, Contraption Maker, just isn't the same, and it's the closest thing I can find to it nowadays. One thing I still enjoy from The Incredible Machine is its music. When I was a kid, I realized if I put the Incredible Machine CD into my mom's stereo, it played the music from the game! I ripped the songs onto my PC, and they've been juggled around from computer to computer ever since. And now my favorite ones are in my iTunes.

One thing I've noticed is that I can't seem to find the lyrics to many of these songs anywhere online. So I thought I'd take it upon myself to listen to them as close as I can and transcribe them here for any other Incredible Machine fans to find. Listed below are all the songs in Incredible Machine that have lyrics to them.

Hay Seed

LYRICS

Aw, yeah!
It's the Incredible Machine hoedown!
Say, has anybody seen my dog?
Boy, playin' these complicated games makes me about as antsy as a frog on a freeway with his hopper busted.
You know, if y'all can solve this puzzle, maybe you can come out in my front yard and help me get my truck started.
Sit down, dog!
Oh, don't drop my hog in the parts bin. You'll be forever tryin' to find it. Ho ho ho!
Where'd I put my wrench?
I just love watchin' Ol' Daisy dance to this little thing here.
Music to make pork sausage by!
Yessir, I could just sit here and do this all day.
Playin' this guitar makes my wrist kinda tired.
You got a leash for that goose?
Aw, yeah!
Heh heh heh heh!
Oh, this game is awfully complicated...
Startin' to make my eyes kinda tired.
Hold on! Don't leave. Sit on back in yer chair and think.
The Incredible Machine.
Kinda like my ex-wife.
Have some chicken. Watch all day. Good flavor. Boogie.
Till the cows come home.
Take it home, boys!
Aw, yeah!

Techno Rave

LYRICS

The pieces are coming together.
The pieces are coming together.
The pieces are coming together.
Oh no, it's the machine!
Oh no, it's the machine!
It's become clear that the machine is completely out of control.
It's become clear that the machine is completely out of control.
It's become clear that the machine is completely out of control.
It's become clear it's become clear it's become clear that the machine is completely out of control.
The pieces are coming together.
The pieces are coming together.
Oh no, it's the machine!
Oh no, it's the machine!
Oh no, it's the machine!
Oh no, it's the machine!
It's become clear that the machine is completely out of control.
It's become clear that the machine is completely out of control.
It's become clear that the machine is completely out of control.
It's become it's become it's become clear
The pieces are coming together.

Hip Hop

LYRICS

Aw, yeah...
Ready to play this game, kid?
Then here we go...
Picture this, Poindexter: pipes and things
Into the screen of this thing, The Incredible Machine!
A scene!
It's kinda like a dream. What I mean is you can't put it down!
It's amaaaazing!
Now ya
Pick your pieces and choose your parts
To start
Use your smarts, cuz ya know it's the bomb at heart!
Make something, flip the light switch.
Kaboom!
The dynamite is in the next room.
Zoom zoom angles, next on the menu
Creep, crawl, dip, slide, then continue.
Do what ya gotta do to obtain your spot
Then snatch ya props if ya get the hops.
Yeah
If this appears as a dream, don't sweat it—
It's the Incredible Machine!
Wacky, wild, and crazy it seems? Absolutely!
It's the Incredible Machine!
It's all about who you are,
Where ya at
And if you are that cage-curry cool cat
Grab what ya need to the deed and then
Pause...
Proceed!
Back to the underground
Back to the scene-scene
You're on the screen with contraptions battling
Lose your mouse
Drag your mouse left or right
Round and round, up and down with all your might
Solve a puzzle build a puzzle, you can do whatever
Flip a switch, fly a kite, even pull a lever
It doesn't matter. You make the choice, it seems
That's the fun of the Incredible Machine!
It's the Incredible Machine.
(phone rings)
Hello?
Yeah, if this appears as a dream, don't sweat it—
It's the Incredible Machine!
Wacky, wild, and crazy it seems? Absolutely!
It's the Incredible Machine!
Yeah, if this appears as a dream, don't sweat it—
It's the Incredible Machine!
Wacky, wild, and crazy it seems? Absolutely!
It's the Incredible Machine!
Ha-ha-ha-ha-haa.
The Incredible Machine.
Keep playing, kid.
It only gets better.
The computer is your best friend.
Egghead.
Hey, Egghead.
Poindexter! Yeah, you in the—
What? What's that?
I dunno.
I don't know...

Steel Drums

LYRICS

Ha ha ha ha!
Ya, mon! It's limbo time!
While you bendin' your mind over backwards!
Put a little tap in your finger, now!
Ha ha ha!
Wipe dat puzzled look off your face. It's just a game, mon!
How low can you go?
Ha ha, ???
Bending over backwards for the Incredible Machine! Limbo!
Oh, ???, mon!
You taking it home now!
Ha ha ha!
Oo, dat one! Over there!
Don't pop the balloon!
Help dat little mouse go home.
Aw, the steel drum makin' happy music!
Make it easy to solve the puzzle, mon!
Heh heh heh heh. You havin' too much fun.