Simon FitzKit...In The Field!

In-The-Field Manual 1: Emails

February 10, 2008
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And Now, a Simon FitzKit In-The-Field Manual…

E-Mail Addresses:
Several Varieties That Just Do NetWork For Me

In the olden days of radio, television and Commodore 64 computers, there were only two modes of personal communication: telephones and letters.

This is not to say that talking face to face, HAM operating, Morse code, smoke signals, flashlight-blinking, drawing The Dancing Men, using Navajos in wartime, and body language were not around, per se…it’s just that for purposes of simplicity, this reporter will not be counting them as ‘modes’ of communication, but rather as ‘medians’. A fine distinction that all lovers of mathematics are sure to appreciate. Tangent complete.

Both telephonics and epistulature allowed for decent-sized messages to be delivered from sender to recipient in a fairly timely manner, and this was due to one thing and one thing only:

STANDARDIZED CONTACT INFORMATION.

When you found yourself wanting to contact a business associate of personal acquaintance via telephone, you simply rotary-spun their seven uniquely-stringed digits and added three more if they lived in some distant mecca like Chatanooga or Newport News.

And when you put your feet up on the desk and dictated to Miss Maxwell a four-page editorial that the Post never printed –much to the paper and the general public’s loss– you made sure she typed out an envelope with FIRST LINE: Name, SECOND LINE: Street, and THIRD LINE: City, State and Zip Code…possibly adding a fourth line if the letter was to be Attention of a particular individual.

However, today, the youths use “E-Mail.”

Short for “Electronic Mailing System Using Computers Instead Of A Postal Service,” E-Mails were created to make communication speedier and more readily available for perusal. However, somewhere along the way, people… got Stupid.

Take a look at these examples:

unycornwomyn@hotmail.com

Obviously, ‘unicornwomyn’ and ‘unicornwomon’ had already been taken. And while it may be more genderally acceptable to spell ‘womyn’ with a ‘y’ instead of an ‘a’, there can be little argument that horses with a horn in their foreheads don’t normally try to buck patriarchal oppression. People aren’t going to easily understand your wacky alternative spelling any more than they do your wacky alternative lifestyle, so if your first choice was taken, change words, not letters.

shtkckr@netscape.com

Same thing to you, sir, with an added warning. Deleting letters is as confusing as changing them, and your choice of words makes contacting you that much more difficult. “Yes, please do E-Mail me, prospective employer. My E-Mail address is shit-kicker…only leave out all the vowels…at netscape dot com. What’s your E-Ma… oh I shouldn’t E-Mail you, you’ll E-Mail me? Oh. Oh, right then. Good afternoon.”

henryrichardforrest-marchester@gmail.com

Now, this young man went with the usually valid and admirable tack of making his E-Mail his name. However, he got a little carried away with himself… as it were. ‘henrymarchester’ would have been fine. So too would have been ‘henry.marchester’ or ‘henry_marchester’ or if that hyphenated last name is so important, go with just ‘forrest-marchester’…but the full-on johnjacobjingleheimerschmidt treatment is a trifle too much. Just think of the poor PTA member who compiles the school’s E-Mail list into a handy booklet. Think of how hard she has to work to format those columns to fit on one page-width. Think of how it takes more time to write your E-Mail than it takes most people to write the alphabet. Think on that, Henry Richard Forrest-Marchester…Think.

thetimehascomethewalrussaid@earthlink.net

Too long. No clever phrase is worth the annoyance of typing it out over and over every time you have other things to talk about. Save that kind of witty one-liner for use as the case-sensitive password to your first apartment’s Wi-Fi connection. Or, alternatively, learn embroidery and make yourself another be-sentenced pillow for your drawing room.

wierdyoghurt@excite.com

Hey! Brighteyes! Learn to spell. Meanwhile, your doppleganger over at ‘weirdyoghurt@excite.com’ has been spamfiltering all your party E-Vites…or has she been…accepting them? Om-in-ous-Chord!

bulbasaur494@comic.com

Trust me on this, it’s not worth it to only be the 494th person at comic.com to want to be contacted via ‘bulbasaur.’ Regardless of how kicking and radical his vine-whip attack may be, your friends aren’t going to remember what number ticket you pulled in the E-Mail queue. If you’ve got so little fear of public humiliation, why not ‘iambulbasaur’ or ‘hugabulbasaur’ or ‘bulbabulba’… or even ‘istillwatchpokemon’. All equally pathetic but infinitely easier to recall.

angelinajolie@aol.com

No. You’re not Angelina Jolie, and you’re not going to trick me again. NEXT.

ar653020@appstate.edu

Now, this wasn’t young AR’s fault. It’s the school’s idiocy. “Want to email your classmates? All you need to know are their first and last initials…and a random 6-digit sequence.” Plans are probably in the works to make these emails more readily available and more easily attributable to their owners, but that road, unfortunately, leads to bar-code tattoo parlors.

basgegcon@gmail.com

This reporter sees what you did there. “Scrambled ‘EGGS’ in ‘BACON'”…scrambled eggs and bacon. Very clever. It’s short, sweet, and at gmail.com. This reporter is all for it…except for the anagramming of EGGS into gobblety-gook. For you see, you can’t tell people what your E-Mail address is. “It’s scrambled EGGS ‘n BACON at gmail dot com”? No. That gives away your joke, and your doppleganger over at scrambledeggsandbacon@gmail.com will steal all your friends. “Anagram EGGS and put it inside BACON”? Too vague. “Anagram EGGS and put it after the ‘a’ in BACON”? We still don’t know what gibberish anagram of EGGS to use. “Bahs-gehg-cohn”? That’s the most promising route, but try saying it aloud and imagine having to transcribe it.

Oh, prattle. Now this reporter’s just needlessly nitpicking; basgegcon@gmail.com is possible the most bully E-Mail considered to date. Way to go, Basgegcon, you’ve won my admiration, and the official Simon FitzKit Piranha Trophy!

Until next time, this is Simon FitzKit…IN THE FIELD!


TTRPG: Thirty Thousand Rounds Per Gun

November 8, 2007
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2) 1000 Words (Training Wheels)
Ready for the next rung? Good. You’ve stolen someone else’s ready-made character and made some aesthetic changes. Now, why not steal something more tangible and less defined? Why not steal a picture of your character? Now, there are those who will now be asking, “But how do I find a picture of a character I haven’t made yet?” Simple: Find any picture that you think is awesome.

EXAMPLE:

(Taken without permission from this deviantART page – Beloved-Creature, the artist, is on hiatus from the interblag. That is my excuse. Moving on.)

My suggestion is a drawing/painting as opposed to a photo, simply because photos tend to lead to one of two pitfalls:
1) a celebrity parody, which last, maybe, an hour before they stop being funny
or
2) You, Like Cliff Yablonski, Will Hate Them

So use a drawing. You’re much more likely to genuinely appreciate drawings. Good. Now that you’ve stolen the picture, what’s done is done, so stop feeling guilty or nervous of reprisal and just make a character out of it. First off, take your first impression of the picture…

Example:
Creepy, evil snowman stalking its lessers, who are only an inch tall.

…and set that in stone as a base for your character. The reason for making this step is that you picked this particular picture for a reason. If you don’t want to lose interest in your character, you should stay true to what attracted you to the drawing/photo in the first place.

Now, pick out details about that person/creature/chaaaaaaaraaaaacteeeer? by listing things you see in the portrait.

EXAMPLE:
evil looking snowman
giant bad-ass wooden claws
no mouth
glowing yellow eyes – magical?
tiny snowmen, some scared of him, some happy, some falling down
top hat that looks like warped metal
dark and spooky woods with light fog
claws hovering over tiny snowman

Those details, paired with your first impression and the picture itself, make the three-legged barstool that your character will sit on (where they’ll most likely be served by Father Samuel Malronus). Now, flesh it out. Combine some details, insert some observations, and trust that your intuition will not lead you astray.

EXAMPLE:
Cusp
Once a wizard of incredible power, the creature now known as Cusp is a man’s soul inhabiting the shell of a Winter Solstice (enhanced version of an ice elemental). It hates its own kind, as it was tricked into its current state by one. The wizard, years ago, summoned a Solstice and tried to dominate its mind to bend the creature to his own will. The Solstice submitted…but only as a trick. With a wrench, the Solstice gave the wizard control of its body, but in return it took control of his. The wizard lost all of his magical powers and he –or rather, it, as the wizard’s sense of self stayed with his body– it had to spend years learning how to use the Solstice’s supernatural abilities. Now it (going by the name of Cusp) is able to create homunculus-like creatures in its own image and direct them to do its bidding. It has learned how to wield a Solstice’s natural ironwood claws with brutal efficiency, and it has but one goal: finding and killing its former body. Cusp no longer even knows why it hates the wizard so much, and it is unaware that killing the man would forever trap it in this icy shell.

There. A wizard’s mind trapped in an elemental’s body. Sort of a Glen Or Rushy Glenda situation. It is important to note at this point that this treatise is not going to concern itself with stat blocks and class features. Those are limiting factors so that the people you play with can feel less insecure in the face of your kickass character concept. When creating a character, it is crucial that you not build it primarily around a rule system; once you start doing that, you lose sight of the character you want to play and start focusing fully on what game mechanics do you want to employ.

Boring. God, game mechanics are soulless and intractable and oftentimes just dumb. Seriously, why is D&D about to go to its 5th edition (called 4th Edition, but there was a Version 3.5 with all new books, so I stand by my assertion) if not because people found previous editions just dumb enough to stop being excited about?

Anyway. All I’m trying to say here is that you should build stats off of your character concept, not the other way around. Sure, let your Gamemaster/Dungeonmaster/Quartermaster have his power trip, let him rein in your creative concept to fit his overarching plot ideas, but don’t make the assumption that he’ll do it before he does. I promise you, if your character concept is cool enough, you’ll be allowed to play it.

DISCLAIMER ONE: If your GM/DM/QM is a jealous dick, all bets are off.

DISCLAIMER TWO: “Overinflated munchkin” is not the same as “Badass character concept,” so don’t be a dick yourself.

With all that said, I reiterate: this treatise will not be covering any of that topic. Now, let’s move on to the real meat of the matter, the average man’s method of character creation:

3) Cover Letter Attached (biking through the neighborhood)

TO BE CONTINUED…


TTRPG: Ta Ta Requiring Parental Guidance

November 7, 2007
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While I was googlechatting with my friend Matt at midnight:45 last month some time, he asked me for a treatise on character creation, something I suppose I am fairly decent at (what with doing it for a non-living and all). He was especially interested in ways to create a character that don’t require starting from scratch. Well, far be it from me to say that every character has some sort of inspiration and that starting from scratch is a total misconception since it’s not like you’re planting and harvesting the metaphoric grain to make your characterloaf here.

(PS: Characterloaf here:

Other Acceptable Answers Include: Eddie from Rocky Horror Picture Show and Robert Paulson from Fight Club.)

So I said I’d have that treatise to him by weekend’s-end… last month some time. I have an excuse: I got to Method 2 and didn’t have an example that I was excited about. So I got side-tracked. Well, I figured out a way around my problem. It’s so simple when I think about it…

How To Create A Table-Top Role-Playing Game (TTRPG) Character Without Really Trying…
PART ONE

Many people, when trying out that Nerd’s Haven known as role-playing, get bored halfway through their first session, saying, “My character is boring or annoying or too short or too useless.” This condition is not usually the fault of the game itself, but instead the fault of the character design.

Some people have characters hiding in the recesses of their minds that they can easily pluck out and use at a moment’s notice; interesting, unique, in-depth fictional entities with 8-page backstories ready-made. These people are very lucky, and they probably make people around them feel jealous and/or uncomfortable.

For the rest of the world, the unlucky and uncomfortable majority, I present here the easiest methods to create a playable character that you will want to hold on to for longer than eight hours (in game). They are ranked by how they compare to bike-riding.

1) Straight From The Box (Tricycle)
You watch TV. You peruse cartoons. You read books. Or if you don’t, you…probably…leer at people…? And support the President? Zing, okay, whatever. Anyway, you’ve been exposed to the most tried-and-true characters out there just by exposure to the ones other people have made. Did you know there are no more original ideas? It’s true; my mother tells me so every time I say I want to be a writer. So if there are no original ideas, what do you want to bet that if you made a character, someone would say, “Hey, cool! That’s like Kenshin meets Bride of Frankenstein meets Heathcliff!”

So if your really awesome and totally original idea…isn’t, why not just reverse-engineer? Take a character you know really well.

EXAMPLE: Sam Malone, the bartender from Cheers

Now, think about the parts of his character that you would change if you were him/her.

EXAMPLE: that whole bartender thing’s boring, baseball’s not as cool as dagger-tossing, let’s make him a priest

And voila! Your character builds itself! You use your character’s existing backstory (adjusting for anachronisms), then change the parts you don’t like to ones you do. It is important to change a decent amount of details. Otherwise, you won’t feel like the character is your own (ahem).

EXAMPLE: Father Samuel Malronis was born in the Northeastern kingdom of the Northern continent. Raised by a single father, he grew up thinking of women as nothing more than cheap thrills and nightly entertainment. In his twenties, he became one of the kingdom’s best mumbletypeg players, able to out-aim even the finest yeomen in neighboring Fra’zhyr. This earned him scores of fans and the love of women who fell into his embedded stereotypes. Then, after an injury knocked him out of an important tournament, he settled down to make his peace with god. He was accepted into the inner order of the Bastionian sect, who are the world’s last defense against the dimension-spanning threat of devils and demons. He has kept his wry sense of humor and his unfortunate love/hate relationship with two priestesses in the order, but everyday he hopes he will finally find some way to return his friend, Sitting Holtinspear, to life from his current petrified state.

2) 1000 Words (Training Wheels)

TO BE CONTINUED…