Thursday, June 27, 2013

Forum Dueling Basics - And I Thought This Wasn't Possible

Authors Note: This was originally written in May of 2009, but I never posted it. So, here it is in all its glory.

Funny thing happened yesterday. I thought it'd be amusing to join a Newb Duel Tourney on RPFF, since it was open to everyone. I submitted a character that I've had for a while through a sign up, spent all of fifteen minutes writing up the backstory I hadn't bothered to put down on a page -- and then was summarily told it was a good character, but the weapons had to go. I asked why, and it was called over-powering. I thought about this, started an asinine argument on my own part. Thought the whole of the world had become more retarded than it already is, but came to a realization.

I can understand where the judges are coming from, in their rejection. They believe that simply by having a weapon it will be used no matter what. A stupid assumption if you ask me, but an assumption somewhat valid by their own train of thought. The character I had created was designed for a futuristic world where the weapons he was equiped with were commonplace things, and having them was the line between surviving and dying. The argument raged, and I finally decided it wasn't worthwhile, even though I was still angry. So I re-thought parts of the argument, turned it over again and again in my mind. I found problems with the reasoning of both myself and the judges. I could poke holes forever in either part, but it wouldn't change the outcome.

But a new thought hit me. Throughout the whole of the argument I was told my character was over-powered. Over-powered by the standards of the tourney they were creating. But yet, it was an under-powered character in a different climate of duel. So, it struck me: there is no such thing as an over-powered character, and there never will be. There is only the over-powering actions of the duelist or RPer in the match itself, since you can easily supe up a character in a match to give it that extra edge, and that's what a lot of over-powering duelists do.

I can understand where the judges are coming from, but I realized that there are no such things as over-powered characters, since a character is designed with that power in mind to take on a specific challenge. The challenge is created by the author of the character to make the power necessary. The problem of "over-powering" arises not from the character, but the duelist or RPer boosting the power already there DURING the match, not before it. That's what the judges don't see. They see that because a character has missiles on him, that he'll use them instantly and begin firing them off at the opponent. They don't see that a missile against a person is a massive waste of munitions, since a missile isn't designed for solitary humanoid targets.

Now, back to the sign up method, I have believed for a long time, and still believe, that it is a poor method for gauging a persons writing ability, and an even poorer method still for gauging a characters power level, since those levels, and abilities, can sometimes change while in a duel itself. Asking for as much detail as possible calls on the honor system, and while many will list numerous abilities, there are many more that aren't listed, and yet even more that just randomly show up in the match itself that were never accounted for at the beginning of the match.

Which brings me back to my original point that it is not the characters that are over-powered, it is simply the fact that in the match itself the circumstances change. People don't want to see their characters hurt, harmed or otherwise touched. They want to see the character come through the match looking just as pristine and wonderful as it did at the beginning. That's where the problem comes in. The duelist increases the power as they see necessary to make certain that said character isn't harmed.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

RAOS - Edge of the Seat

The slide is pulled back. It flows forward, taking a round from the magazine and moving it into the chamber. The trigger depresses, activating the striker. Instantaneous pressure causes the ignition of the primer that burns up the gunpowder in a flash. The quick-burning reaction creates an overpressure that shoots the bullet through the barrel while simultaneously moving the slide back to eject the casing to reload another round...


A card table was flipped over onto its side sending chips and cards cascading through the air. The airborne debris fell faster and in lower than normal. Large, angry men rushed a lone red-haired figure hanging on desperately to a look of smug satisfaction that could almost be a grimace. Pained, Wolfe spared little thought to the table he had thrown that was heavier than first thought and instead focused on his soon-to-be assailants, all the while screaming "Get some!" over and over again.

Ducking behind the table, he watched in rising fear as splinters cascaded past him as the makeshift cover was shredded. Wave after wave of crunched splinters made him realize he was fast losing his only defense. Well, might as well get the show over with, he thought, as he came to his feet in a turn. With the minimum pressure necessary, he began to pull the trigger. Four quick staccato bursts and four bullets, each nudged telekinetically by his innate powers, found themselves propelled by physical and spiritual to their targets.

The first round burst through a rushing figures right temple, slashing up and through the eye socket. An eruption of liquid, blood and gore mixed with shards of bone follows before the mashed bullet exits just above his eyebrow. A destroyed pustule of an eyeball seeps while the connecting nerve dangles precariously as the figure drops to his knees screaming incoherently with hands clawing at the ruined hole in his face.

The second is taken in the shoulder with a grunt as it passed through muscle, but does little to slow the man.

The third passed through the side of the neck, dropping a man who's final expression was of pained shock. Momentum carried him forward while the nicked arterial spurts blood like a fountain.

The final onrushing figure fell flat, the bullet having penetrated through his nose before being deflected by the contour of the inside of his skull. A blender that dripped mashed gore and blood through the crater.

Before Wolfe can celebrate -- or fire off more rounds at others now moving in to engage him -- he's jumped. Attempting to grapple, he slammed his knee up into the figures groin. An exhaled grunt punctuated the movement along with a loosened grip. Wolfe began to squirm free. He looked left and saw a boot coming for his face...


More coming later...

Friday, June 21, 2013

It Can't be THAT Hard

My personal life experiences are somewhat interesting. I'm a cancer survivor. I've never broken a bone, but I've been dropped, fallen from heights and been hit by dropped and falling objects more times than I can count. This includes and is not limited to actual trees that were once standing moments before -- but that's neither here nor there. I've been to Afghanistan, deployed to active operations with the Canadian Military where I got to experience firsthand what true combat is. I've seen people die with my own eyes, how horrible death can be.

What's more is that I've fulfilled jobs with bosses that should be placed into mental institutions for how neurotic they are. I've had neighbors that had bedbug infestations and thought it'd be cool to try and spread the love. Currently, I'm almost literally stranded due to flooding with the possibility of a water boil advisory. I haven't lost power, nor been evacuated. I'm one of the lucky ones.

What does this all have to do with anything? Well, that's where the amusing thing starts. Well, at least, I find it amusing. In the most ironic sense of the word there could ever be, that is. You know that moment, when someone complains about having broken a nail? How about how you may have had to do dishes that one night? You're a teen and you were grounded and now can't go to that super-cool-awesome party. I've had to listen to kids complain ad nauseum about such things, as if the fate of their life hinges upon this one event. As though, in that moment, the decision was made as to whether or not they'd be rich, famous, beautiful, save the princess, yank the sword from the stone, conquer a nation and raise an army. No, you aren't that special, your day wasn't that hard, and just because your feet hurt and you're tired doesn't make you a superhero. Leave that to the people who actually do things and get shit done.

So I'm at work and some kid is complaining that they have to work tonight but they want to be at a party and if only their FOUR HOUR SHIFT wasn't so long. Then I laugh, because my worst day was forty hours long with no sleep -- nevermind that when this conversation is happening I'm pulling in an extra four hours of overtime. Yeah, the kids life is hard. Or even an adult is relating how their life is ruined because of the most innocuous thing. Ruined, truly? I know a man who died after a machine gun he was reloading was hit by a rocket causing it to cave in his chest killing him instantly. I don't think the word means what you think it means. Life ruined? This man is considered a hero. What have you done today?

But I suppose it may be relational. After all, experience dictates what a person might think of as the most horrible thing to ever happen in their short, silly, retarded and worthless life. I mean, what do I know? I'm just a guy surviving despite all the things that get thrown at him. Now if you'll excuse, I need to get some sleep because unlike little children, I get up in the morning with the sun for work. Because that's what real men do.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Forum Dueling Basics - The Long Road

At some point, you'll need to be honest with yourself. It won't be nice or pretty, but it is a kindness -- even when emotions are running high and you think you're going to be crushed under all this "negative" weight. At the moment you won't recognize it as being kind, let alone useful. How could they say such a thing?

I'm talking about criticism.

Too many don't know how to take it, and when it happens, especially to our writing, a good many people -- some who've said they're open to criticism in the first place -- will explode like a several megaton nuke. And that's a good day.

When someone wants to improve their writing, often they'll turn to others, most likely friends, in the hope that they'll pick the piece apart and tell them the error of their ways. What generally ends up happening instead is that those same friends, out of a desire to not hurt you, tell you that what you're written is great, and that just hurts you more. If you aren't aware of your mistakes, you cannot improve from them. And if people continually tell you that those same mistakes are made of pure gold, well, you'll just keep shuffling along the same mediocre path.

Good friends will be honest. They'll tell you that, yes, the writing is atrocious. It sucks. Maybe not exactly that blunt, but they'll let you know. And, if they happen to know a thing or two about writing, they'll also give steps, ideas or a means toward pursuing improvement, such as: detail needs work, proofread and edit more, slim down those excessive descriptions, correction of bad word choice, etc.

Typically, most people are blind to their own mistakes. A rare individual will spot them, but that isn't the rule, it's the exception. All of us, myself included, will often gloss over a mistake and keep going as if we hadn't even made one. It blinds us to our own failings, and with regard to friends telling us we're doing great, when finally confronted with how bad our writing truly is, it makes us defensive and angry. Friends wouldn't lie, would they?

This brings me to my third point, and probably the most important: the thing that will help improve ones writing ability is self-reflection or introspection to a degree. It lets you look at your writing from a different vantage. You can see it isn't good, you know this, but it lets you try things out to find out what works and what doesn't. It won't stop blind spots from happening, but can aide in bringing out the better qualities of your writing. There will still be mistakes, those happen, but they may happen less.

In the end, self reflection and criticism, constructive or otherwise, will help you move forward. Without them, you may drown in mediocrity for years to come. But it also comes down to you as a person on whether you wish to pursue greatness or wallow. Wallowing gets you nothing. Perseverance, well, that's the stuff legends are made of.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Get Out of the Way

Oh, I had a bit of an adventure today. Earlier today. In a parking lot. I was at the point where I was actively thinking of getting into a fist fight with several people. One of which was an old man. A couple were women. And I would not have felt ashamed to have lain them up on the ground like bruised and beaten fucktards. I went to a book fair today. It's a yearly thing, and I go because it's an excellent opportunity to find rare and extremely old books. I managed to get a couple, one from the 1930's while the other is from 1880's.

Anyway, I went out to my truck to find that, after being there for two hours, the parking lot is now packed. People are desperately looking for parking spaces. And, when it is seen that I'm moving toward one with the possibility of vacating it, cars start to follow me.

So, I'm in my truck, start it up. A vehicle is waiting for me to pull out. No big deal, so I start to back out. Only, on my left a white car pulls up, blocking my ability to reverse out with a turn (backing up straight would plow me into the car directly behind and waiting to take this spot -- and there's another car behind him off to the side a bit watching me like a vulture with intent). I am effectively boxed it.

I pull forward back into the parking spot in rage that people would move their vehicles in such a way as to obstruct me in their attempt to take my spot. So, I put the truck in park and shut it off. I actually opened the door, expecting to get out and start shit. The door was open when the SUV that had been directly behind me moved into position to block the white car. I restarted my truck and reversed straight to where he had been, letting him take my spot. Seeing this, the white car (with the old man) began to get angry. Fuck him. The other SUV wasn't too pleased, either. I was still boxed in, though.

Pulling forward, behind the SUV that had just taken my spot, I intended to wait until these two idiots had moved out of the way so I could leave the parking lot. Only a van, complete with driver who wasn't paying attention at all, was beginning to back up and would have smashed into my truck had I not honked my horn. I gave that driver, another wonderful man, the most severe look I could muster that probably suggested I would go Mortal Kombat on him and remove his spine via his mouth and beat him to death with it like a whip.

That driver stopped. It took a minute for these two drives in the vehicles behind me to get the clue that, no, there wasn't an available spot and to move on because I wouldn't (and couldn't) be moving until they did. I got out of the parking lot consumed in my typical rage wondering what the fuck is wrong with drivers and why they can't have common sense.

So yeah, that was my day yesterday.

Saturday, June 08, 2013

Forum Dueling Basics - Dialogue: The Misfortune of Talking to Others

So, dialogue has a time and place, much like persons wanting to experiment (it's known as college), but in dueling, RPing or even writing in general, we know when dialogue shouldn't be happening: when you're driving a fist down another persons gullet with intent to find their reproductive organs through their intestines. This of course means that when you're fighting, you shouldn't be talking, and if you're talking while fighting, you're doing it wrong. You're a fighter, not a talker. The grand warrior. Warriors do not bandy speeches about. They aren't masters of rhetoric. Look at a barbarian -- the most he's gonna managed is a grunt, and that's while driving the club through your skull to bisect with your spine.

Conversation should always feel natural. Before or even after a fight, it should feel natural. Forcing it makes it awkward. If one is talking during a fight, that suggests you aren't fighting anymore. The engagement of wills through force has stopped and moved on to an engagement of wills through intellect. Conversation must flow from a desire for the two persons to talk in the first place. If there is great enmity between these persons, why would they talk? If they know they're here to d-d-d-d-d-duel, why mouth off in the first place? We're not talking about badly dubbed martial arts movies where their mouths are moving but no sound is coming out. A real fight is fast, over quickly, and has the minimum of vocal content.

Now, this moves into another thing about dialogue: there has to be a reasonable amount of reaction to what's being said. Characters, much like people, will react to what is said by the protagonist in varying ways. The response to something as silly as "Wassup!" will differ depending on who is being asked. Some could reply in kind, others with something else, while others still will be offended. Remember this when crafting conversation in the first place. Like in physics, for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. This is how conversation should play out. That what is said will provoke a response, either by continuing the conversation, causing an expression or particular look, or an action in reaction to what was said.

This now moves us onto the third part of dialogue, and that is understanding appropriate dialogue. This is a bit more difficult, in that it requires of the writer a certain level of maturity, in that it's expected for them to understand people. Real people. It doesn't have to be a lot, but some. In understanding people, you understand how they react to varying instances of conversation as well as expressions or looks. How your mother replies to you when you say something. How a friend waits or interrupts you while you're speaking. Understanding these things can help you craft convincing conversation. What moment would be appropriate for someone to say something, or interrupt? When does someone show emotion? Answering this questions can help one create better conversation between characters.

And finally, this roles right back into the start: would it make sense for two people in a blood feud to start off by introducing themselves by name before jumping out with machetes before jumping back to continue to talk? Writing mimics life, and like life, there needs to be a level of logical conclusion to things, an understanding of agency (that is the power to act and do things). This means that when it is in your power to act, why would you talk? So, if you as a person wouldn't talk a long monologue about pants under a blood moon in May, why would a character do the same?

Mind you, time and place for everything. Writing seriously, this all makes sense. Writing camp, you do the opposite. But dueling, role playing (and most writing) is a serious endeavor, so why wouldn't it be a serious reflection of the lives we live?

Friday, June 07, 2013

Culture Shock: Riding Down, Coasting Up

Recently, a friend of mine linked me to a forum that was having an RP tourney, or that's what he alluded to it being. I, already warming to the idea of another duel tourney (having done one already this year) jumped in ill-prepared and unknowing (I'm like that, being all-up-ons when it comes to duel tourneys). Well, I was in for a culture shock.

Their main method of "dueling" is that each person must post a biography of the character they intend to use throughout. Normally, among my typical crowd, a bio is just extraneous info for the crowd to read if they desire, but has no meaning and bearing on a match. This however is the opposite for the group I'm doing the tourney with. The purpose is to give an in-depth look at the character, because you, as a participant, will be writing a fight sequence using not just your own character, but your opponents as well. Your opponent does the same thing. Both sequences bare no relation to one another, and can be done up in any fashion the writer desires.

Creative license is granted to both duelists to write what they desire and move the match in any direction they want, up to and including the complete humiliation of the opposing character if so chosen. Not that this seems to happen, but it is open and, seemingly, allowed. This creates an environment that focuses more on the whole of the writing piece than the piecemeal effort of attack/defend/counter that is seen in other forum dueling, as there is no sudden break from the action as each poster goes through finalizing their attack and leaving open space for their opponent to retaliate in. The downside, though, is that there is a lot more to be written, and that the whole piece must be more engaging. In a regular forum duel, a single bad attack could detract, but wouldn't ruin the match for you. Whereas in the other, a number of bad lines, paragraphs, etc, can detract wholly from the entirety of the written structure.

This could mean that there is no internal consistency, excessive monologuing or unnecessary dialogue where it wouldn't make sense. In forum dueling, your opponent can often make up for your own deficiencies allowing for the whole to at least be cohesive. In this second, it's a single writer, so the onus is on him (or her) to make a masterful piece that must have all the parts everyone expects of a duel (flow, creativity, consistency of thought and action as well as a fully functioning worldspace that it all takes place in).

While I am a strong proponent of forum dueling as I know it, I'm not against this other method. It forces the duelist to write not just their own character, but also to account for the other entity. And, assuming proper accounting, to get in the secondary characters head and portray them in as realistic a fashion to the actual author who created that character. This, I believe, is the most difficult portion, in that given creative license, getting right all the nuances of someone else s creation is a fairly difficult prospect.

In the end, where several judges come in with forum dueling to give a decree as to the outcome, the participants all come in and vote on whose sequence of events they prefer more.

I'm not opposed to this other method. It's intriguing, and outlandishly different from what I'm atypically used to. But, assuming I make it past the first round, could be quite the learning experience. It also, to an extent, could allow for a means of bettering ones writing skills through the use of other characters and writing them well. This I'm fully behind. If anything, I recommend at least giving this a try once. Who knows, the style might grow on others as well.

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Well, it's been over a year. How about some fiction?

The interstice rippled open, a blackened wound on reality that gushed exotic particles that wavered in the air as smoke and just as ephemeral before dissipating in sulphur fumes. From it stepped something, a something that didn't walk so much as jump and wavered there on the precipice of being here and being elsewhere. The mind was still trapped beyond, but here, the body seems to shrink while growing into itself, trailing wisps of the exotic that channel off it in an oily aura while slitted neon-green eyes began to adjust to the here, the now and no longer the there, the gone. But even as it landed, it's arms flapped to regain balance while the newly adjusted eyes looked downward, startled. That was when it felt the heat of the air and was nearly blown away.

High above the drifting magma sea of Hulyait IV, the cargo train flew from the mining operations to the main spaceport more than thirteen hundred kilometers away for refinement, processing and shipping. And atop it stood Stent, a Baajin of Daluquen III. Rivers of fire ran in relief down the sides of the blackened husks of mountains in the distance while smoke clung to the sky like an infested, pulsating wound.

Alien, xeno, unknown -- Stent dropped down to hands and knees, clawed fingers and toes gripping the metal roof as the machine clocked in at speeds over four-hundred kilometers an hour. The attempt was futile and the creature began its backward slide into the void and the waiting fire sea below. The Baajin's HUD came to life, a strange mashup of iconography and menus and command lines, all tied into and activating portions of the technology embedded within the body and jumpsuit of the creature. The kinetic accelerator came online creating a shield to divert the slipstream ravaging it. The press of hurricane winds diminished to nothing, but a bar representing the power draw flared to life within Stent's HUD -- time was limited.

Standing, Stent's profile was silhouetted against the red and black. Too, the Baajin was black scaled with some being orange and yellow along arms and legs that could alternate colors and patterns (green and red respectively), a unique method of communication for the Baajin race. Tall, standing bipedal atop hock-jointed feet with a long, curved dewclaw at the ankle, it turned its bald head to look about. Lipless with a mouth, noseless but for two slits, and earless but for two holes representing them, the creature was strange, dressed in a black and orange jumpsuit with sleeves rolled up and the legs cut off below the knees. Tactical gear was strapped onto it, along thighs, waist, back. A strange handgun, diskettes along the right thigh, magazines along the left, a knife on the back of the waist. Utility pouches holding more gear for easy access, and cradled on the back, something akin to a sub-machinegun.

A forked tongue tasted the air as the trim and vaguely feminine form began unfurl the cutting torch from a pouch and began to apply the beam directly to the surface of the train, intent on creating an opening...

Monday, June 03, 2013

WPCA - Just Business

The door flung back on its hinges crying out in a deranged squeal. A man came through, bobbing as he held onto a pair of zap-strapped legs that jerked back and forth. A second man appeared, hanging on precariously to the shoulders as the bound figure spasmed and jerked. Muffled screams from behind a gag mimed the doors previous cry while tears ran in rivulets beneath the awning of a blindfold.

Unceremoniously, the bound figure is lumped into a corner like trash and kicked several times for emphasis as to who is in charge while the second grabs a chair, noting their captive assuming the foetal position. The chair is set up while the gag and blindfold are removed, revealing a sobbing, weeping man in his mid-thirties. "Up," one says, partially hefting the figure onto the chair who keeps repeating "please, pleas no" in hypnotic mantra.

"You know why you're here?"

"Please, I didn't mean it. It wasn't my fault!"

A fist connects with the side of the bound mans face, rocking him in the chair, but not falling him.

"Look, you dumb shit, answer the fucking questions, or I get the bolt cutters and pretend I do fuck-damned manicures. Got me? Now shit-for-brains, why are you here?"

"I do- I don't know."

Another hit. "You know why! Tell me why, tard-face!"

"I-," he gulps, blood drooling from the side of his head while tears pool in the crook of his eyes. "I told the cops about Blacklight."

"You told the cops about Blacklight. And you know what we do about that, don't you, Randal, right?"

Another gulp, a nod as eyes turn to downcast, trembling orbs half hidden in tears, lashes and lids.


He thumbed the device up against the mans forehead. It unfurled, twined wings wrapping around the front of his skull.

"It's a Gurdak," he said nonchalantly, conversationally. The other man, strapped to the chair, was sweating.

"I know Gurdak. Doctor Gurdak."

"Yes, and now you'll begin feeling the pain, as the nanites drill through your skull, begin to envelop your brain. Neuron by neuron, synapse by synapse, you are being copied. In the end, your brain is gone. All that's left is a flesh-like spongy mass of nanites pretending to be you. And you know what, I hear that Gurdakites still believe themselves to be, well, themselves."

He began to scream, beg, plead.

"It's okay. Hush, hush. The pain will go away. You didn't want to talk, we don't need you to talk. Instead, your copy will."

A heart-rate monitor was spiking, crying out in sync to the man strapped to the chair. After minutes that seemed like hours, he drew into silence. Compelled by his rewritten mind.

Reaching a hand forward, he thumbed the button on the front of the skull, the wings retracting. He yanked and what looked like gore-dusted nets slipped out from the newly drilled holes.

A flick caused the last flecks of a mind to sputter off onto the floor while he thumbed the bead again. The nets expanded, forming the mind that had been devoured. He turned it over, this way and that, looking at it, inspecting it. A human mind, digitized in complete.