Turning 50: Oh, What a Difference a Year Makes #happybirthday

One Year Later!

This past year has been a great ride. A collection of small and not-so-small things inspired me to make some changes in my life. I don’t like discussing it, but many people have credited me with inspiring them to make changes, so here I go again.

On May 21, 2017, I weighed 303 pounds. I was pre-diabetic, had high blood pressure, a B12 deficiency, and developed osteoarthritis in my hip. All of that sucked, but it didn’t inspire me to make any changes. What ultimately put me over the top was the burden I had become on society, and more severely on my friends. My gluttony and sloth were affecting others, and that wasn’t fair.

So, on May 22, I stopped drinking anything but water (occasionally with a bit of lemon or lime juice for flavor, but usually by itself). On June 5, I dropped my daily carb count to 70-75 grams per day and eliminated all but trace amounts of sugar from my diet. Everything that I eat has one of three things on the label: “0 g sugar,” “<1 g sugar,” or “not a significant source of sugars.” If it says 1 g of sugar, I won’t eat it. I don’t eat even onions and peppers because they have a higher natural sugar content then other vegetable options (spinach is your friend). To get me started, my first meal was at Wildfire in Tysons Corner. I had filet mignon and broccoli with lemon juice. Nothing wrong with that. When I had carb cravings, which happened a lot, I’d cook up an entire pack of bacon and eat that as an in-between-meals snack, and I’d still lose weight!

Note: If you have certain medical conditions, my diet won’t work for you. Also, if you’re only 20 pounds overweight, things won’t move as quickly as someone needing to lose 100 pounds. Consult a doctor if you have a genuine medical condition, but if you don’t have any genuine medical conditions, don’t pretend you do. Creating excuses will doom you from the start. This took dedication and persistence.

On July 6, I went back to my martial arts dojo and started working towards my 2nd degree black belt. In late September, I added weightlifting to my regimen, which is the first time in my life that I’ve regularly lifted weights. As my endurance improved, I started running. I do interval training, alternating between a jog speed (4.5 mph) and run speed (6.5 mph), but my goal is to regularly run at 7.5 (i.e., the fabled “8-minute mile”). Because of the workouts, I’ve actually had to force myself to eat 135 g of carbs per day and drink sugar-free Power Zero to replace potassium and sodium, but I never once faltered and resumed sugar intake.

My Results So Far

Today, I turn 50, and here are the results. I’ve lost 75 pounds. All of my numbers are great, and I have no persistent joint pain. I feel better physically, emotionally, and even mentally (i.e., no more B-12 deficiency causing vertigo, etc.). Don’t get me wrong. I’m 50. That means that lifting weights for the first time in my life can cause intense soreness. Even the very familiar martial arts has resulted in a badly-pulled hamstring and other assorted aches and pains. But that’s all temporary. If I give myself a little rest, it goes away, and then it’s back to the grind.

My Goals Going Forward

All I have is MS Paint. No Photoshop.









Okay, not quite. Here are the real goals: The aforementioned 8-minute mile and 2nd-degree black belt, another 8 pounds lost, but more importantly, everyone realizing that they can do the same thing. If you want to lose weight, start dieting right now, and then when you’re ready, start working out (preferably weights first, then cardio, but do whatever you enjoy more so that you’ll stick with it). If 50 isn’t too late, 40 sure isn’t, and neither is 30. The longer you wait, the more permanent damage you’ll do to yourself that will never be undone (I’ll spare you the gory details).

Get on it! If you have any questions or need a sounding board, let me know.

A special thanks to Ben Barr, champion of the First Amendment, whose post about a year ago gave me some good ideas.


“Pure” #5e #DnD One-Stop Stat Blocks for the Monster Manual #rpg cc: @bandofmisfits @stitched

Well, that was fast. Converting my original “one-stop” stat blocks document to a “pure” form was easier than expected. What does “pure” mean?

In the original document, I edited the stat blocks for a couple of reasons. Monsters over CR 5 are typically underpowered with respect to how much damage their Actions do. I suspect that the reason for this is related to the fact that the Monster Manual and Dungeon Master’s Guide were released separately. While that time difference is relatively short, I suspect the two were written independently and thus aren’t in sync. I suggest the following changes in order to reconcile these stat blocks with the table on page 274 of the Dungeon Master’s Guide, Monster Statistics by Challenge Rating.

Some of these changes, however, I suggest because I found the monsters as written boring or otherwise lacking. While I found the giants far too similar to one another, I was especially annoyed by the fact that the Azer, Githzerai, and Githyanki don’t have ranged attacks. As far as I’m concerned, a DM should be able to create an encounter based on what’s interesting rather than whether it makes tactics too easy for the PCs, and the entire point of this project was to make things easier on the DM. I also find it incredulous that a Cloud Giant doesn’t have a Create Beanstalk power. C’mon!

Nevertheless, my changes resulted in complaints. The Adventurers League players were concerned that my stat blocks were “illegal” because they made changes that the DMs weren’t permitted to make those changes. To satisfy their concerns, I created an index that  showed exactly how I changed the stat blocks. Converting them back to their boring, underpowered selves would be a snap.

Nope. Still not good enough for some, so in the spirit of making this as easy for the DMs as possible, I’ve created a “pure” document in which the stat blocks have no edits. Then I changed the appendix to reflect my edits as suggestions. That’s what I’ve provided here. As a reminder, the same rules apply to this document, which includes, among others, that I used shorthand to keep them as reasonable in length as possible. This means that one could take advantage of loose language to maximize the creatures. If you choose to do that, that’s on you. Also, I could use your proofreading, and if you have any other suggestions, please let me know. As you can see from the original post, I respond.

My next project will be based on Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and will take much longer to complete. Moreover, it’s competing with some other projects I have. Please be patient.

Here’s the complete list so far (in order of creation):

One-Stop Stat Blocks – Monster Manual
One-Stop Stat Blocks – The Sunless Citadel
One-Stop Stat Blocks – Tales of the Yawning Portal (includes the Sunless Citadel)
One-Stop Stat Block – Monster Manual “PURE”
One-Stop Stat Block – Volo’s Guide to Monsters (coming soon … or maybe not so soon)

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#5e #DnD One-Stop Stat Blocks for Tales from the Yawning Portal. #rpg @bandofmisfits @stitched

As promised, I’ve converted stat blocks as necessary for Tales from the Yawing Portal using my “one-stop” method. I may need your help proofreading the document, so keep your eyes open. Note that this time I didn’t make any modifications to the stat blocks. They are mechanically identical to those appearing in the source material. However, the same rules apply, which includes, among others, that I used shorthand to keep them as reasonable in length as possible. This means that one could take advantage of loose language to maximize the creatures. If you choose to do that, that’s on you.

My next project will be to create what @stitched refers to as a “pure” copy of my original document. My original document made changes to the stat blocks to make them more interesting (in my humble opinion) and provided an appendix specifying all of my modifications. This resulted in some complaints (though I can’t imagine anyone not liking what I did to the Azer). In the “pure” document, I’ll remove my modifications from the stat blocks and alter the appendix to include those modifications as suggestions. Both documents will remain on my site, so you can use what whichever you want.

The project after that will be based on Volo’s Guide to Monsters, and will take much longer to complete. Be patient. I’m committed, so you’ll get them eventually. As some of you may know, a friend and I are designing our own RPG system, and we’re ready for alpha testing. What little free time I have is being divided between all of these projects, so again, be patient.

Here they are: One-Stop Stat Blocks – Tales of the Yawning Portal

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The Sunless Citadel: #5e #DnD One-Stop Stat Blocks #rpg @bandofmisfits

As promised yesterday, I’ve completed the one-stop stat blocks for the recently-released preview of the Sunless Citadel, as it will appear in the upcoming Tales of the Yawing Portal.

Here they are: The one-stop stat blocks for the Sunless Citadel. There aren’t many, but I’ll be hard at work on Volo’s Guide to Monsters soon enough.

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Resolved: More #5e #DnD One-Stop Stat Blocks Are Coming. #rpg @bandofmisfits

I had some back and forth on Twitter today with @bandofmisfits, and that got me thinking. I’ve decided that I’m going to create a new document of my one-stop stat blocks. It will include the creatures from Volo’s Guide to Monsters. I have some other things to deal with this weekend, but I’ll at least start the project. Stay tuned.

Also, I intend to run some of the adventures in Tales of the Yawing Portal, and if there are any of those that require conversion, I’ll do that as well. The Sunless Citadel has already been released, so I’ll have that one done tomorrow night.

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#5e #DnD Calculating Character Sheet #RPG

I’ve done a bit of tinkering with the 5th Edition D&D character sheet, adding some basic calculations. The trick with Adobe files is that it’s not a database, and so there’s no (reasonable) way to include everything a full-fledged character builder would have, and it’s tough to produce a truly idiot-proof version that prevents all user mistakes. That’s quite a disadvantage considering that’s the entire point of adding calculations to it. Even where it’s possible to make a change, I might not be able because it would be unnecessarily restrictive (q.v.). On the other hand, it’s free 🙂 (unless you want to contribute voluntarily to my work by making a payment via PayPal).

So, here are my design notes. Please let me know if you have any suggestions for changes.

  1. Your ability score modifiers are calculated automatically. That was an easy one, though you may not like how I use the textboxes. I prefer that the ability score bonus be the bigger of the two numbers.
  2. Inspiration is now a checkbox (i.e., either on or off). Also easy.
  3. Unfortunately, you may select only two classes. In hindsight, I can fit a third in there, so I will on my next edit.
  4. I fixed the “tab order” for pages one and two. Maybe one day I’ll take the time to fix page three (which is a mess), but I doubt it. Tab order is a pain in the neck in Adobe, and any fixes I make are often undone by the program. I’m not inclined to spend all that time fixing the tab order on page three only to have it screwed up again through no fault of my own.
  5. Classes, backgrounds, races, and alignments are now “drop-down textboxes.” You can select an item that I’ve provided for you, but if an option you need is missing, you can instead type whatever you want.
  6. Skill bonuses are now calculated for you based on your level and relevant ability score. When I referred to things as “unnecessarily restrictive” above, this is a great example. There are a ton of exceptions to the general rules that could impact your score, and I can’t consider them all. Accordingly, I’ve added a drop-down textbox where you can select whether you’re not proficient, you add only 1/2 your proficiency (e.g., bards), you’re fully proficient, or you add twice your proficiency bonus (e.g., rogues). That sure beats a checkbox, but it doesn’t quite cover everything. Next to the proficiency drop-down textbox, I added a field where you can simply enter a number that gets added to your skill bonus. In most cases, this number is 0, so the character sheet is still saving you some brainpower. However, even where you have to enter a number, it serves as a reminder that you’ve got something going on there, perhaps reducing the possibility that you’ll forget a bonus you earned with a feat or class feature.
  7. I may not have fixed the tab order on page three, but at least now the spell save DC and spell attack bonus are calculated. I’m worried these might also be unnecessarily restrictive (e.g., there’s some feat that gives you a +2 to your spell attack bonus), so if I need to add something in order to account for exceptions to the general rules, please let me know. I know of no instance where a spell uses Strength, Dexterity, or Constitution to determine your DC or attack bonus, but you can do that in case either I’m wrong or the rules are changed one day.

Now, there’s some good news about page three. I think it sucks, so eventually I’ll replace it. It doesn’t allow for multiple spellcasting abilities, which, unless I’m wrong, is necessary for multiclass spellcasters. That is, I believe that a Wizard 3/Bard 2 would use Intelligence for Wizard spells but Charisma for Bard spells. (My PHB is in my car, and I’m too lazy to go get it right now.) At the very least, you need to provide spellcasting DCs and attack expressions for all relevant spellcasting. I also would like for you to be able to select durations, targets, etc. from drop-down textboxes. In other words, I’d really like to change page three, but don’t hold your breath waiting for me to do so, and when I do, don’t expect it to be artistic. I’ll probably look like a raw spreadsheet when I’m done.

In case you missed the link above, here it is again: Form-Fillable Character Sheet with Calculations.


10/23/2016Calculating Character Sheet v1.1 (added builds to classes drop-down textboxes; deleted blank page 4)

As always, please provide any suggestions you have, and happy gaming!

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