tori_angeli: (Guidelines)
I play almost nothing but period characters.  Therefore, I play with a lot of people who also play period characters, whether it's historical fiction or fantasy or what have you.

Also, almost everyone wears clothes.  Therefore, almost every character wears clothes.  Period clothing, however, isn't a part of most peoples' everyday experience.

Me, I reenact.  I've done 18th century-early 19th century for fifteen years now, and I'm getting into late Medieval era (1100-1400) slowly.  Doing this kind of thing gives a person a working knowledge of how period clothing works, and has worked for centuries.  Fashions change year to year, but some things have decent general applicability.

So I thought I would share a few basic pointers to balance the ones you see and learn at the Renaissance Faire (I am a fan of the Faire, but I implore you never to take historical knowledge away from there).

Section One: Fibers

Wool: Ubiquitous as hell.  Easily the most commonly used fiber.  At least in the 18th century, wool could go from the sheep to a yard of woven fabric with 10 hours of labor, making it the cheapest and easiest to use.  It also held dye well, was cool in summer, and warm in winter.  Outer clothing (gowns, jackets, frock coats, petticoats and skirts) were commonly made from wool.

Linen: Also ubiquitous as hell.  We think of this as a luxury fabric in the modern day, but linen was the default fabric for underwear for centuries, being durable, soft, cheap, absorbent, and washable.  It's also incredibly cool--even in the sun, it will be cool to the touch.  Shifts (chemises) and shirts and other undergarments were made from linen, as well as caps, neck handkerchiefs, and most outer clothing (but not cloaks).  Linen took about 24 hours of labor to go from flax plant to a yard of fabric.  It did not hold dye very well, so richer colors were reserved for other fabrics.

Silk: Came to Europe as early as ancient Greece.  While considered a luxury, it primarily showed up in the form of taffeta (taffety in the 18th century), which is essentially plain weave silk.  It has a crisp texture and pleats well, and has a beautiful shimmer.  An easy way to make taffeta look fancy is to make it "changeable," with one color as the weft and another as the warp.  There were also brocades and jacquards and embroidered silks.  Silk was fancy.  Crepe de Chine was also popular depending on the era, especially as scarves or neck handkerchiefs, and silk gauze might make a glorious overgown.  Silk was pricey, but how much so depends on the era.  In the 18th century, even a poor person might have a silk scarf or silk ribbons, though they probably wouldn't have a full taffeta ball gown.  Silk "satin" (satin being a weave) was not especially popular in fashion before the 19th century, and if you look at most period gowns and consider how silk satin would drape, you will see why.

Cotton: Was available through Arabian traders in the Middle Ages, but it didn't catch fire until Columbus brought back accounts of natives in the East Indies wearing the stuff.  Even when it became a generally known item, it didn't replace linen as the default for undergarments until the patenting of the cotton gin in 1793.  Before the cotton gin, it took about 100 hours for cotton to go from plant to a yard of fabric, and it was priced accordingly.  India cotton was cheaper than American cotton because it had a few large seeds instead of a billion tiny seeds to remove by hand.  The cotton gin made seed removal incredibly easy and lowered the price of cotton until it became the default fabric of the 19th century.  It held dye better than linen but is not as breathable.

Section Two: Layers

So way back when, clothing was worn in layers.  This made laundering easier and prevented outer clothing from fading and wearing so much--only the undergarments were washed.  So!  I'm going to go backwards because this is the order in which clothing will be removed for a smut scene.

Gown, jacket/petticoat (petticoat prior to the Victorian era was just a word for a skirt), tunic, or whatever other first layer your character has on.

If you're a man and from an era that supports these items, you will remove your surcoat or vest/waistcoat, neck stock, things like that.

Shoes and stockings.

Trousers or breeches (breeches are not a fancy word for pants or trousers--they are a very specific garment that usually buckle below the knee), or leggings or hose if we're Medieval.

Stays (post-Medieval, generally--a woman's "support" commonly came from the sports-bra-like squoosh of one's gown during the late Medieval era).  Stays preceded the corset as we know it and were worn underneath the gown, not on top.  I cannot emphasize this enough: stays or a corset should never be visible in public.  It's like wearing your bra outside your shirt.  Men sometimes wore stays, depending (George IV famously did this to appear less fat, some just did it for posture and back support).  Prior to the late 1790's, stays gave the torso a conical shape, not an hourglass.  The hourglass corset as we know it didn't really appear until about 1830!

Shift/chemise (if female), shirt or undertunic and sometimes braies (if male).  Not every man wore underwear on his butt and very few women did.

And now your character is naked!

If you want to change things up, we have plenty of accounts (and fiction) of clothed sex in history.

For the garments themselves, please look into your specific era.  I'm not an expert on every era, and this post is an overview!  Enjoy burying yourself in the beauty of period clothing!

Section Three: Silhouettes

It is my opinion that if you know the desired silhouette of your time period, you've done half your job already.  I consider the clothing of a period film to be redeemable if it at least gets the silhouette right, as this usually means they have a working understanding of the underpinnings and therefore the structure of clothing.  Giving Ann Boleyn an hourglass shape or putting princess seams on a Medieval cotehardie are huge no-nos--the first indicates she's wearing a 19th century corset underneath her 15th century gown, and the second means a woman requires a modern-day bra to have proper breast support (we do have an extant example of a very modern-looking underwear set, but it's still not going to give you a modern-day shape under your clothes).


So that's the rundown.  Be conscious of the era you're writing for, know your fibers, and know your terminology and you'll create lovely escapism for yourself and everyone you RP with!
tori_angeli: (Joshua)
You know how people say a sign of insanity is the belief that you're sane?  There are a lot of things wrong with the statement itself, but what's behind it is truth.  It bothers me when people gripe about mentally ill people as using their illness as an "excuse" for their behavior.  To be sure, some people do.  But let me explain to you the big fat cow turd you're stepping in when you get into "who is to blame, the person or the illness?"  Because it ain't simple.

"Insanity" is not a medical term at all, so I won't use it again here.  Instead, let me define mental illness.

According to the interwebz, mental illness is "any disease of the mind; the psychological state of someone who has emotional or behavioral problems serious enough to require psychiatric intervention."

By that definition, I have never had a mental illness.  I'm not 100% sure why.  My intervention had to come from a physician, but not from a psychiatrist.  My problem didn't stem from childhood trauma or anything, just out-of-whack body chemistry.  The issue wasn't psychiatric, it was strictly hormonal.  Nevertheless, I had whole days where I shook from anxiety.  I had days where I wanted any excuse to lash out because it felt good and I felt like I deserved to let loose.  Then I had days where I thought about killing myself because it was the best possible gift I could give everyone around me.

This sounds so obviously irrational, and I was.  I knew what was going on.  Knowing what was happening to me didn't actually put everything in perspective the way you would think.  Even when I had a name for it--premenstrual dysphoric disorder--it did not strengthen me one bit against the irrationality.  All I could do was warn my friends beforehand--and these episodes lasted three weeks out of the month, sometimes longer--and explain to them that it wasn't their fault.

The anxiety days were the worst for me because absolutely everything bothered me.  Everything was a big deal, no matter what anyone said.  My heart fluttered, my hands shook, and I thought I was going to wear my heart out.  On the other hand, my mind was clearer on those days, which was a mixed blessing.  I really, truly felt on those days like I was going crazy.  The other days, I felt like I was seeing clearly for the first time.

The depression days I won't get into much.  They were awful.  Sometimes I would just go to bed and stay there because it was all I wanted to do.  Sometimes I planned how I would kill myself.  Sometimes I thought it was the best option for everyone.  Those moments happened with total clarity, like an epiphany.  My eyes were opened.  My friends and family were better off without me.

The anger days were insane.  I slammed books down to try to relieve it and it only made it worse.  At one point on an anger day, I knocked over a cup of water at work by accident.  I stopped and stared at the water pooling, how fascinating and beautiful it was, and suddenly knew that if/when I killed myself, it was going to involve blood because of how lovely it would look pooling like that.

These days were the hardest on my friendships, I think.  I would get in arguments over the smallest, stupidest things.  You have to understand that at the time, the things I said and the feelings I had made utter and perfect sense.  Almost a harmony.  I believed with no uncertainty that the hormones had nothing to do with it, no matter how much my friends tried to blame my outbursts on my disorder.  The outbursts and bashing and anger felt so very good, like it was the first time in my life I was able to let those feelings out--even the feelings I'd never had before.  I felt liberated.  Overjoyed.

Not so much on the mornings after, when I would see what I'd said and beg for forgiveness.  Thing is, as often as that happened, it was impossible to tell when it was happening.  It always, always felt like I was following a logical course of thinking and of action, and that whatever we were arguing about was a huge problem and we couldn't go on without it being corrected.  It's why to this day I can apologize, I can say I was out of line, I can say it wasn't my friend's fault, but I can't actually blame myself or even accept much responsibility for my lack of self-control because I remember with horrific vividness my mindset of the time.  I really felt like I was in control, and that I was following a logical course.  Looking back on it, it was like becoming a monster.  But the monster wasn't a separate entity inhabiting my body.  I was the monster.  Whoever I normally was didn't exist as long as I was the monster.

It's weird to write about now, but I'm thinking about it and I want to explain something to people who say that mental illness, or a hormonal disorder, is no excuse for bad behavior or a lack of self-control.  That's the thing.  With something like this, self-control has nothing to do with it.  You're not really the same person under the influence of the disorder.  You have an utterly different logic.  And believe me, it was hard to make my mother come around to understanding this.  I could do damage control while I was a human being, try to arm my loved ones against the monster that would eventually appear, but once I became the monster, I lost every perspective.  It's like putting a blindfold on me and expecting me to drive well-known routes.  Yes, I drive them every day without thinking, but I still need my sight in order to keep from bumping into things I didn't expect to be there, such as other cars.  I could get through work tasks with effort, but any disruption was a huge deal and I reacted very strongly to it.  The magnificent circle was that the disorder disrupted everything.

The one place when I felt I might have some kind of control was in my pursuit for a treatment.  I tried for months to find something to help (and that is paltry compared to the years some people spend).  I researched the hell out of PMDD online.  I tried herbal cures, exercised until I hurt myself, and got put on anti-depressants.  The anti-depressants helped for about a month before the symptoms started to come back.  I decided I was not willing to get on the medicine ladder for a problem often treated with birth control, so I stopped the meds and saw an OBGYN.

It took.  So long.

When I went on the birth control pills, I had constant symptoms for almost three months.  Instead of having about a four-day break once a month like usual, I started out with outrageously strong symptoms that very, very slowly tapered off.  During this time, I had an impossible time focusing.  I tried every trick.  I tried to snap out of it.  I still couldn't focus.  I couldn't grow up and get over it.  It resulted in being rude to a friend of my mother's by barely responding when they spoke to me.  This was when I had to beg my mother to understand that getting out of bed was an effort.  I could look at faces but it took me a few seconds to realize who they belonged to.  It was like being expected to run a race with a handicap as well as someone without one.  I was doing my best.  That's not something you can prove to anyone.  Everyone thinks with enough effort you can act just like a normal person all the time, that all you need to do is be strong like everyone without a mental illness or a disorder like mine.

Sometimes I wanted to say, "Sorry the emotional mess I'm in every day of my life was hard for you for a few seconds.  You got to go home and feel miffed and get over it, while I got to go home and feel like something's trying to claw itself out of my skin the way it is every minute of every day.  I hate hurting people.  I hated hurting you.  I hate hurting me, too."

And me?  I'm really freaking lucky.  I'm lucky because unlike most women, I managed to find something that cures my PMDD.  I haven't had a single problem with it since I went vegetarian.

For someone with a real mental illness, like my brother?  Like my friends with profound depression or anxiety or bipolar disorder?  I don't know how you do it.  The only reason people say you're not strong is because they've never had to carry the kind of weight you carry every day.  All the same, surround yourself with support.  Maybe only one or two people are willing to help you (not enable, but actually help).  I've been on that side, too.  Remember it's hard for them, too.  Remember how someone empathetic enough to help you is also empathetic enough to be brought down by you.  That's why it's important to have multiple friends who will support you, if you can.  Don't be afraid to ask people for help.  Really good friends are honored by that kind of trust.

End ranting.

Muse List

Jun. 2nd, 2012 12:53 am
tori_angeli: (applause)
Lt. Archie Kennedy | [personal profile] simplestgift [community profile] luceti 
   Canon: Hornblower
   Canon Point: Post-Retribution
   Strength: 10/10
Indisputably my main muse.  I have loved Archie for about a decade now.  He feeds into my love of history and the time period, and set the standard for my character "type," the gentle soul.

M'man Archie Kennedy | [personal profile] unneeded  [community profile] demeleier 
   Canon: Hornblower
   Canon Point: Post-Even Chance
   Strength: 8/10
Same character, completely different canon point.

Bilbo Baggins | [personal profile] barrel_rider  | Homeless
   Canon: The Hobbit
   Canon Point: Undecided
   Strength: 4/10
I picked him up during a reread.  One of my favorite characters ever.

Gregor Vorbarra | [personal profile] vor [community profile] luceti 
   Canon: The Vorkosigan Saga
   Canon Point: The Vor Game, chapter 8
   Strength: 10/10
Gregor is another long-loved character, but a far cry from the extroverts I am usually comfortable with.  He's a challenge, but very much a welcome one.

Guinevere | [personal profile] reginabritannia | Homeless
   Canon: Merlin
   Canon Point: Undecided
   Strength: 2/10
Picked up on an impulse, hardly voice tested, unlikely to be apped.

Irvine Kinneas |[personal profile] take_a_shot  | Homeless (Prev. [community profile] luceti )
   Canon: Final Fantasy VIII
   Canon Point: Post-game
   Strength: 3/10
Easygoing, cocky, but ultimately wouldn't hurt a fly who wouldn't hurt one of his friends.  Of course I love him.

Joseph Clay | [personal profile] keenly | Homeless
   Canon: The Price of Honour
   Canon Point: Undecided
   Strength: 8/10
I read a friend's NaNoWriMo novel and got a muse out of it.  So?  He's awesome.

Julian Bell | [personal profile] burns_so_brightly  | Homeless (Prev. [community profile] luceti )
   Canon: Cambridge Spies
   Canon Point: Post-series
   Strength: 2/10
I was talked into Julian because a friend plays Guy Burgess, who suffered badly from unrequited love for him.  We were able to give him some peace and forgiveness in Luceti, and Julian had served his purpose.

Molly Grue | [personal profile] burned_marian  | Homeless
   Canon: The Last Unicorn
   Canon Point: Undecided
   Strength: 3/10
Molly is a downright sacred character to me, so much so that I'm afraid to do too much voice testing with her lest I mangle her badly.

Peeta Mellark | [personal profile] victorbychance [community profile] luceti 
   Canon: The Hunger Games
   Canon Point: Forty-five seconds before the Quarter Quell begins.
   Strength: 7/10
Peeta was an instant muse, almost.  He is exactly my kind of character, so it was a natural fit.

Rob Anybody Feegle | [personal profile] wee_big_man  | Homeless
   Canon: Discworld
   Canon Point: After I Shall Wear Midnight
   Strength: 6/10
I wanted a Discworld muse pretty badly.  Then I remembered Rob, and I voice tested him, and he was a blast.  He makes an appearance now and then, and I still flirt with apping him somewhere.

Thranduil |  [personal profile] elvenking   | Homeless
   Canon: The Hobbit
   Canon Point: Shortly after the end of the book.
   Strength: 7/10
Surprisingly fun.  Just damned hard to find icons for.  I guess I only have to wait till the second film comes out, but still.  Anyway, my first choice was Thingol, but I figured Thranduil would be a little easier to thread around with, as people more frequently play characters who know him as opposed to Thingol.  And Thranduil's friendlier.  But they still have a similar base temperament, so.  It worked out.

Lt. Tom Pullings | [personal profile] themaiden   | Homeless
   Canon: Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World 
   Canon Point: Undecided
   Strength: 6/10
Picked this one up after attending the Festival of Sail.  He's such a dear farm boy and I completely adore him.


Apr. 9th, 2012 06:16 pm
tori_angeli: (parker)
So you’ve chosen to play a character with PTSD. Or a history of it. Or a future of it.

Good luck. If you’re anything like me, it’ll give you all kinds of anxiety even if the character makes it worth it.

First off, though, does/did/will your character really have PTSD, or have they just been traumatized? “Lingering fears and relevant reactions post-trauma” are not the same thing as PTSD. Post-traumatic symptoms are normal after a situation where the “fight or flight” instinct is triggered and neither fight nor flight are possible. PTSD is not a normal reaction. Not to say the psyche that acquires it isn’t normal. PTSD from what I understand is more like a psychological injury than a psychological illness—not acquired through some immune deficiency or a failure of the body to protect itself, but through sheer bad luck. It’s why two people can come through the same trauma and only one has PTSD.

PTSD has a ton of symptoms, all chronic (lasting longer than a month, in this case), all severe enough to wreck your everyday life, none willing to go away without outside help. Post-traumatic reactions like nightmares and an exaggerated startle response can happen totally independently of PTSD. If the symptoms are severe but last less than a month, it’s called Acute Stress Disorder, or ASD. Before deciding on trauma as a fun thing to do to your character, read all about it. Hurt/comfort and angst may be fun, but real trauma goes way, way beyond the cathartic and into the upsetting.

I’m going to do the easy thing and use my own character as an example, so SPOILER ALERT for the Hornblower miniseries. If you’re unfamiliar with the series, the character of Archie Kennedy starts out as a victim of an older midshipman on a ship in the late 18th century. Whatever is happening between them, it’s bad enough to give Archie seizures. At one point, his abuser attempts to murder him and instead gets him captured. Kennedy then spends an undetermined amount of time as a prisoner of war. After several escape attempts, he is controlled by being stuck in a hole in the ground with no room to stand up or lie down. After spending a month like this, he’s taken back out, half-crazed and unable to walk and very much ready to die. Fortunately, the series’ protagonist has a hard time giving up on hopeless causes and gradually nurses him back to health and hope. Every bit of this happens in canon. None of this is headcanon. None.

Ask my friends—any time anything remotely related to Kennedy’s past traumatic experiences comes up ICly, I freak out. I freak because real people go through these things and I’m terrified I won’t get it right, and someone will be offended. We may or may not have ex-POWs in the games I play in, but we definitely have victims of abuse and people who’ve lost loved ones (the latter being relevant with Archie’s later death). Maybe we don’t have ex-POWs, but we probably have people who were locked in tight spaces against their will.

So take a time in one of my games when everyone was huddled in some tunnels for safety. Archie’s (headcanoned) claustrophobia is not severe, but a cramped, dark, underground space would have to trigger him considering his canon experiences. But how badly? Could he sit uncomfortably with his eyes closed and breathing slowly and make it through okay, or would he start panicking? Frankly, after his experiences, I know I’d be in all kinds of hysteria, but I’m not him. Archie was crammed into the brig with Bush and Hornblower in canon and didn’t panic, and even his agitation during that scene can be chalked up to the fact that three of the four lieutenants of the ship are in the brig as the ship is going into battle and they are probably going to die (continuity in this series is not always great). So on the sliding scale, we’re probably closer to the “sit uncomfortably” reaction. The thread was purposeful, though, so the character of Jack Aubrey could show his captainy side in calming down and bucking up an emotional sailor, so Archie was made to be visibly on the verge of losing it without actually losing it. This worked for RP purposes and seemed IC, so I considered my bases covered.

Even a decade or so after his abuser’s death, violence and touch are tricky subjects to tackle with Archie, especially since canon doesn’t really address such things. Sex is worst of all. Something some people may be surprised to understand is that ten years after their initial trauma, many survivors are only beginning their recovery. Archie is very lucky in that regard, having come so far with no professional help in so little time. It’s without doubt to anyone who’s seen the series that he had PTSD in the third and fourth films, during and after his time in prison. It’s handled extremely well in the films, which, I’m sad to say, makes the third one pretty hard to watch sometimes. Even in the fifth and sixth films, we see him alternating between flying into a fury and bursting into tears over Wellard’s situation. So in short, what you think is a realistic length of time to carry baggage from a trauma bad enough to cause PTSD is probably questionable, and this goes for me, too. If a year or two after the trauma your character is acting and feeling like it never happened, that’s not very realistic. On the other hand, if ten years after the fact they’re acting just like they did the day after, that could also be a problem. Not that people in real life don’t have, or appear to have, similar recovery times, but in general, PTSD touches every day of the rest of your life. Archie can heal and has a relatively normal life now, but will still have nights when he wants to be alone, or doesn’t want to be touched. As someone who has had PTSD, he has an increased risk of developing it again if he’s traumatized again, or relapsing given strong and/or recurring triggers (contrary to the belief that PTSD is a little like the chicken pox and getting it once “strengthens” you somehow when it’s more like spraining an ankle and being prone to re-spraining it for the rest of your life).

Now, I will fully admit that, while Simpson’s abuse of Archie is 100% canon, the sexual nature of it is only implied and never outright stated. I think the writers as well as Simpson’s actor must have thought there to be some sexual abuse happening (“It’s been a long time--Jack’s missed you, boy,” he says, leaning in with a smile and not at all looking like he’s about to hit him), but Kennedy’s actor said in an interview that, while the idea is fascinating to him, he hadn’t thought of it at the time. To me, sexual abuse seemed the interpretation that made the most sense, even if I definitely don’t think the abuse had to be sexual in order to be severe enough to give Kennedy his notorious seizures. I certainly don’t think anyone who interprets it as strictly physical/psychological is wrong. Many people get PTSD from physical abuse. No, I went with that route because it seemed to fit all the clues, period. In choosing that interpretation, I chose the consequences of it. I don’t deny it would be easier to play Archie without that layer, and I would suffer less anxiety in RP. I can’t even say the rewards outweigh the troubles. But I can’t complain about how hard it is, because I chose it. I don’t regret choosing what I still feel to be a sound interpretation, nor would I do any differently now. Choosing any character with a background like that comes with emotional consequences you should be aware of before committing.

Ten years after the fact, it’s common for abuse survivors to still flinch if someone, say, shouts and smacks a table. Some modern-day war vets hate fireworks to the end of their days. Those sorts of spontaneous, seemingly unrelated triggers are easy to miss in RP. When caught, they are even easier to over-react to. Yes, Simpson beat Archie. But if Bush loses his temper and kicks a chair over, Archie should by no means tremble like a rabbit and hide behind Horatio. Archie’s not afraid of being hurt by Bush, or really even afraid of being hurt at all at this point. Frankly, if (IF) he jumps at the sound of Bush kicking the chair over, it’s because his body is reacting before his mind catches up with him. He’s not even consciously thinking about Simpson. When trauma occurs, it’s not just the mind that’s conditioned, but the body. Afterwards, will Archie know why he started? Yes. Will he feel off for a while, or gloomy at the reminder of something he really doesn’t want to think about (in other words, a trigger)? It’s possible. But he’s still not going to be afraid of Bush, because he has a sense of reality and knows Bush isn’t Simpson.

Will he be anxious around men who are about the age his abuser was, regardless of appearance? Many are. Made uncomfortable by people with tics or habits that remind him of Simpson? I tend to portray him as so, but not incurably so. The “fun” thing about triggers is that when one is conditioned away, very often another takes its place. Archie is no longer bothered by, say, invasion of personal space (which visibly agitates him in the third film), but nowadays he’s far more upset when he hears about other peoples’ traumatic experiences when at nineteen he could somehow fit it into his bleak post-prison worldview without blinking.

Even trickier is the fact that no two people react the same way to the same trauma, or have the same triggers. Archie and Wellard were both shot and killed in canon. If we choose to treat this as traumatic in a game, we can say maybe Wellard gets upset or depressed when he smells gunpowder or jumps when he hears gunfire, but Archie doesn’t seem bothered in the slightest by either. On the other hand, when someone else dies, Archie is out of sorts all week while Wellard doesn’t seem troubled beyond the grieving aspect of it. So reading all about someone else’s experiences and symptoms and trying to copy theirs exactly isn’t going to be natural for your character.

Now, maybe I’m putting the cart before the horse. What is psychological trauma, exactly? The term is misused so often to describe “negative events that leave a lasting impression on one’s psyche” that the word’s meaning might change entirely within our lifetimes (I hope not). I do apologize, but your character probably was not traumatized by the loss of their grandmother to old age, even if he or she still cries every day about it. If your character wakes up terrified she felt bedbugs crawling around after living through an infestation, they’re still not traumatized. If your character watched their grandmother get tortured to death (by bedbugs?), or hit by a car, that’s actually traumatizing. Psychological trauma happens when you are completely helpless to stop something from happening to yourself or a loved one (even a pet). This can include seemingly “small” things like muggings and car accidents as well as the big stuff like war and rape. As stated above, it’s when the “fight or flight” instinct is triggered and neither fight nor flight are possible. That’s to paraphrase psychologist/author Judith Hermann. Fear and total helplessness (not just the feeling of helplessness) are the big factors here.

Maybe your character wasn’t traumatized when her grandmother died of old age, but it’s still very hard for her. She thinks about her and is inspired by her every day, and that loss shapes her life in ways nothing else does. That’s a completely different hardship, and should not be counted as a lesser one than something that’s actually traumatizing. It’s just different, although trauma is a type of loss. There are many, many ways for people to endure hardships, and the common mistake in writing and RP is to treat trauma like the only one.

Let me hold up another of my muses as an example. Emperor Gregor Vorbarra, yes, went through some stuff as a kid that was traumatizing without turning into anything chronic, but that’s not the stuff that makes him tip himself over a balcony in one book. Honestly, I doubt he remembers much about barely escaping assassination in a lightflyer with Captain Negri’s face melting off, or crashing at Vorkosigan Surleau, or fleeing through the mountains with Cordelia and Bothari. He was too young to really understand what was happening at the time, and nowadays he’s old enough to understand that he was being taken care of every step of the way by people who were loyal to him. No, what makes him suicidally depressed has nothing to do with that. He grew up under the loving care of Aral and Cordelia Vorkosigan. You couldn’t ask for better foster-parents. His security kept him as safe as possible at all times, and his birthday was a planet-wide holiday from the time he turned five.

That’s why he attempted suicide. Well, that and he learned his father was a crazy sadist who tortured pregnant women.

Growing up with no self-identity, never sure what he could be for his own sake, never allowed to take risks when his cultural identity is all about risking one’s life in service, spirals him to make the same sort of attempt that Archie made in his canon because of trauma, even though Gregor isn’t traumatized at the time of his (drunken and self-aborted) suicide attempt. Does that make Gregor wimpy, whiny, or emo, or weaker than Archie? Absolutely not. His sense of futility and helplessness are very real and very potent, even if they don’t exist in a traumatic situation.

This is all really depressing stuff, and we writers/RPers tend to be emotional people. This is one reason I try to be very careful about playing characters with actual psychological trauma, and have only one muse who ever had PTSD. Too much can really mess with you. With that in mind, I’m going to share some of my personal rules for RP and trauma. These rules aren’t for everyone, and it’s not wrong for someone else’s rules to be different, if they have any. Not everyone is that affected by depressing things happening to people who don’t exist. Consider these tips, just in case you have similar tendencies to myself and want some advice about keeping things moderated.

1. I will be respectful. This is the key to everything. No matter what my character has been through, I will assume a player in my game has gone through the exact same thing and is stalking all of my threads. I will respect their experience.

2. I will not headcanon trauma for my character if it’s not already implied or a viable explanation for (a) symptom(s) that can’t be otherwise explained. Chances are, my character has already been through enough in their canon. These are characters. They always go through crap. Piling it on doesn’t make them more sympathetic or interesting. On the contrary, some characters reach the point where they’ve been through too much trauma to be relatable to your average person (pick a Whedon character).

3. I will avoid collecting muses who have the same trauma. I’ve broken this rule, since two of my muses are orphans (Gregor and Irvine), albeit under totally different circumstances, one of which wasn’t necessarily trauma since Gregor wasn’t even there for the deaths of his parents and was informed about it gently by two people who cared very much about him. Still, it’s pushing it for me. I know for sure I can’t handle another character with a similar background to Archie, and he remains my only muse who has ever had PTSD.

4. I will read. There are a lot of writings about psychological trauma and the more I know, the easier it will be to moderate. For example, I didn’t always know flashbacks are extremely uncommon even for those who have them. Depending on the person, anyway. Some people with PTSD never have them, and those who do might have one or two over the course of their lifetimes. It’s rare for someone to have them often, and they “feel” different for everyone. Knowing this made it easier, because I could headcanon that Archie has never had a flashback and his canon nightmares were his main method of re-experiencing the trauma and I don’t have to torture him more than canon already does.

5. I will ask myself if a trigger moment is worth derailing a thread over. Sometimes the answer is yes. At least as often the answer is no. I can tailor my character’s reaction either way and generally get away with it based on my character’s current mood, mindset, circumstances, etc. If it seems unavoidable, it could wind up being a pretty interesting moment between our characters. If ever in doubt, though, I will contact the mun I’m threading with. Sometimes players aren’t comfortable with threading out a trigger moment, so always give them a way out. If they are, sometimes it’s worth the risk. I had an early experience where Archie was triggered during a playful thread, causing crazy mood whiplash and the opinion of Jack Sparrow that Kennedy is completely nutters. I was terrified I was ruining the thread, but the other players loved it!

6. Like anything of value, special moments dealing with the trauma should be rare. If Archie goes around telling everyone he was locked in what was essentially a shoebox in the ground for a month, other players aren’t going to feel special that my character and theirs have unusual mutual trust and shared a special moment. They’re going to be irritated that Archie blabs to everyone about something he shouldn’t want to talk about at all. Archie has some very close friends in Luceti who know little to nothing of what he went through, including two of his castmates, the way I knew a close friend for years and years before I ever knew she was sexually assaulted when she was thirteen. Similarly, trigger moments should generally happen quietly when they do happen. Trigger moments that are obvious to other characters will be more likely to rattle CR than strengthen it. One of the best near-misses I can think of involved horseplay between Archie and Jack Sparrow. Archie wasn’t triggered, but he wasn’t comfortable, and at a word from him, Jack switched tactics and the horseplay continued with no triggers. That did far more to strengthen Archie’s physical trust than a trigger moment followed by soothing words and “talking it out,” and it was far more IC. Moreover, if the person I’m playing with is canon-blind, alluding to Archie’s post-traumatic quirks without getting explicit creates a sense of mystery, which is more intriguing than a backstory dump any day of the week.

7. I will remember that my character’s trauma does not make them unique or special in any way. So my character’s world blew up. Big deal. Your character’s world blew up, too, and HIS parents and pet goldfish blew up with it! And Al, over there? When his world blew up, he was captured by the guys that blew it up and tortured for fifteen years until he became a shell of his former self, utterly subservient to his captors until he finally snapped and killed them in a rage, discovering his dangerous powers that he can’t always control and now he hates himself for what he did! So there.

8. No matter how tantalizing it is to submit to the temptation of woobification, my character has a personality. Sure, Archie Kennedy went through some stuff, but what people are really going to notice about him is that he’s a high-spirited, poised, sensitive individual who likes trolling and Shakespeare. If I’m doing it right, most people shouldn’t even be able to guess at the things he’s been through when they first meet him unless they’re fiction-savvy enough to know that writers just love torturing the cute, innocent ones. We meet and talk to trauma survivors all the time and don’t know it. Heck, when we first meet Archie in canon, I’d never have guessed the sorts of things he’d already been through off-screen. All I’d see was a grinning, upbeat teenage boy talking the seasick Horatio’s ear off. And then cackling without the slightest degree of sympathy when Horatio proceeded to demonstrate his last meal all over the deck. Abuse victim? Really?

Now, I know some of you will read this entire rambling and be like, “YES! THIS!” when in fact you are guilty of dealing with trauma unrealistically or insensitively.

THAT IS OKAY. I’m guilty of it too.

There is never going to be a point where I get it all right. Never. It’s a complex and monstrous subject and I don’t expect anyone without a related degree to get it right. No matter how much I study history, I’m never going to stop having small historical inaccuracies now and then, or even big ones. Psychology is even more vague than history. So it’s okay! This isn’t your master’s thesis and you don’t have to defend everything you do with your character. Frankly, you CAN’T defend everything you do with your character because no one is perfect. I know I cringe at some choices I’ve made. It doesn’t make me a bad RPer, it makes me human. The point isn’t to get defensive as if our pride in our good RP is all we have. Misunderstanding PTSD is such a widespread problem and the answer is so elusive that what we really need to do is forgive ourselves and each other and keep trying to get it right instead of turning up our noses at other peoples’ mistakes as if we don’t make our own. I mean, I’ve never been traumatized, thank God. If I had been, my experience with it still wouldn’t be Archie’s experience or your experience. Reading up on it helps a ton, but it’s still possible to overdo (or underdo) it. That’s where I have to listen to someone as they explain to me where I got it wrong and alter my perceptions accordingly. My pride isn’t worth my ignorance, not by a long shot.

Fact is, none of us get it all right. I think as long as we follow rule #1, respect for those who’ve been through similar circumstances, other mistakes are acceptable. Trauma isn’t a tool to gain sympathy for your character. It’s a real thing people go through every day. It might even be something you’ve been through yourself, but if you haven’t, you know people who have. As long as you hold to that, everything else should fall into place.

Make note: I’m not a psychologist. My degree is in music. I just do a lot of reading on this, and still not enough to be any kind of an authority, so I beg you not to take me as one. There are lots of resources out there you should go to first, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong.

I want to end with an apology to anyone reading this who I’ve offended. I know it irritates me when I’m lumped in with a statistical group as if I’m only defined by one thing. If you’ve been traumatized and I’ve made you feel that way, you have my most profound apologies. Sometimes we think we’re being as sensitive as we can be and we still screw up, and for that, I’m truly sorry.
tori_angeli: (Default)

It’s lucky for you her captain was so poor a navigator, hm?  Else we might never have found you.
-Cpt. Pellew

Now.  Most people by now know fore, aft, starboard, and port.  On board the Britannia, the term “port” is less likely to be used as a reference to the left side of the ship.  The term used at the time was larboard, and when you say it out loud, you’ll understand why they changed it, being so easily confused with “starboard” when shouted during a squall.  But that’s what we have.  Starboard and larboard it is.

A quarter can refer to a couple things.  In the case of direction, it refers to literally a quarter of the ship aft of the beam (the widest part of the ship).  The “starboard quarter” is the right side of the ship abaft (behind) the beam.  The larboard quarter is the left side blah blah blah.  On the other hand if someone talks about a quarter, they can be talking about a division of men.  Britannia doesn’t really have a large enough crew for everyone to be divided into divisions, though, so.

What’s the equivalent for the bow?  The bow.  If you refer to the “larboard bow,” you’re talking about the front-left quarter of the ship.  But what if the enemy ship is right in the middle, starboard side?  Then they’re on the starboard beam.

What if you want to be more precise?  Use compass points.  The compass is divided into thirty-two points (the ship has a compass in the binnacle, a post built for having an embedded compass, by the helm).  If you want to be specific, you can sound amazingly smart by telling someone how many points abaft the starboard beam something is.

Here is how such a conversation could go.

Hiccup: Sail ho!
Hornblower: Where away?
Hiccup: One…no, two points off the starboard bow!
Hornblower: (noting that the sail is to leeward) Square away, if you please, Mr. Bush, and set course to intercept.
Helmsman: Starboard two points, sir.

So we know direction in relation to the vessel itself.  How about that amazingly daunting topic of (orchestral sting) NAUTICAL NAVIGATION?

Navigation by sea is, from what I understand (and I understand very little), a completely different beast from navigation by land.  By land, there are landmarks, roads, terrains, etc.  By sea, there is nothing besides natural and imaginary divisions of the Earth.  How do you know where you are when all you see in any direction is flat water?  This is where a sailing master, the chief navigator of a ship, comes in (Nami of One Piece could be considered a sailing master).  Now, any green midshipman is taught how to plot a ship’s position on the earth.  Hornblower even as a lieutenant made sure to plot the ship’s latitude and longitude every morning, but the sailing master, or just the master, makes nautical navigation their specialty.  Maneuvering is not a part of this, especially not in battle, although a sailing master has the know-how to perform maneuvers requested by the captain.

Norie’s Epitome of Navigation, published in 1805, was the definitive book on navigation at the time.  It defines navigation so:

“Navigation is that Art which instructs the mariner in what manner to conduct a ship through the wide and trackless ocean from one part to another, with the greatest safety, and in the shortest time possible.”

A master and his or her mates are going to be doing this all the time.  Making sure they know exactly where on the globe the ship is.  Figuring out how to get where they’re going, compensating for leeward motion that is inevitable unless one is completely squared away with the wind at their back.  The master also figures out when sunrise and sunset will be every morning.  Now, this is all stuff I am still learning myself, but this is the gist of what I have so far.

It’s math.  Lots and lots and lots of math.  So much math, in fact, that I just will not get into the details.  Suffice it to say that we are spoiled in this modern age by calculators, because I have read about how to figure sines, secants, tangents, etc. without one and it is a pain unless you are using logarithms, in which case it is less of a pain.  But that’s what it is.  It’s all about circles, triangles, arcs, and the distance between two points.

To plot one’s position upon the Earth requires the proper tool and a lot of math.  A sextant is especially famous for measuring the angle of the sun with the horizon.  It’s these angles and plenty of math that determine one’s latitude and longitude.  Anyone with a sun and a horizon can plot their position.  You can even hand-make a sextant.  Because.  Yeah.  In our day, sextants were all hand-made.

Now, I’ve spoken with Masa (who giggled at the word “sextant”), and it is possible to plot Luceti’s latitude and longitude if you’re using the assumption that this planet is like…whichever one you come from, with the same curvature to the planet and not, for example, a JRPG doughnut shape, and if you are assuming the existence of Greenwich, UK or some other “first meridian” for longitude.  Plotting the position of locations outside the enclosure is going to be handwaved as not quite working.  Celestial objects like stars are not at all the same from location to location outside the enclosure.

The speed of a vessel is measured in knots.  In the Age of Sail, this was measured by essentially chucking a weighted rope into the water and looking at how many measured lengths (marked by, you guessed it, knots) they went through in 30 seconds.  It’s roughly equivalent to a nautical mile per hour (about 1.8 kph or 1.5 mph).  Tall ships are not planes or cars.  They do not travel at super-speeds even before the wind.  The average speed of a vessel really depends on the vessel, but there seems to be something of a bell curve depending on the size of the vessel.  Tiny boats are slow and giant first-rate ships of the line are slow (“slow” might be 3-5 knots) whereas the Joanna Joyce might get up to about 8-10 knots with a fair wind.  No matter what, though, it always depends on the wind.  Sometimes, size is an advantage in speed.  Larger vessels carry more sail and catch more wind, and are less affected by weather and waves.  Still, the speed of a vessel does not depend solely on the vessel itself.  For example, with the wind at their backs, Joanna Joyce would undoubtedly beat Britannia in a race.  Beating to windward, however, Britannia has the advantage because size is actually a good thing when beating to windward, as discussed in an earlier entry.  It also depends on if your sails are spilling wind, whether deliberately or through poor handling.  Even with everything perfect, you can never sail faster than the wind.

How long does it take to sail from the shore to the farthest point of the Barrier?  Depends on the vessel and the wind, but probably no more than a day.  With good wind and fair conditions, about half that.  What about the perimeter of the Barrier?  I haven’t done the math yet, but I’d guesstimate it’d be two or three times the distance from the shore to the furthest point of the Barrier, so maybe 36-48 hours.  It’s oblong and I always sucked at parabolas in pre-cal, so I am not doing this.  If anyone catches my math being off, please tell me, because I would love to correct this.

This is all very complicated, isn’t it?  Well, there’s more.

A ship’s course is, to quote our friend Norie, “the angle which a ship’s track or path makes with the meridian, and is expressed either in points or degrees.  Thus, when a ship sails in a north-east direction, we say her course is 4 points, or 45 degrees.”

The distance is…self-explanatory.  It’s the number of miles between any two places on the course, or it is the “length that a ship has sailed on a direct course in a given time.”  That one was obvious.  Next!

The difference of latitude is “the distance which a ship has made north or south of the place sailed from and is reckoned on a meridian.”

The departure is “the east or west distance a ship has made from the meridian of the place she departed from, and is reckoned on a parallel of latitude.”

These are all things a navigator will keep tabs on at all times.  There is a different way to calculate, construct, and measure every one of these.  If you’re measuring, there’s a different tool for each.  Navigation is hard.

Eyes crossing yet?  It’s okay.  For RP, this is stuff you probably only need to know if you play an officer or navigator (midshipmen, you are being taught this stuff! But you are not likely to have to reference it in RP unless you are playing out a navigation lesson, which…why would you do that?).  Even then, it’s mostly terms to throw around so your character can sound like they know what they’re talking about.  If anyone, anyone, actually wants me to go into a Navigation: Part 2 sometime after I’ve read more about it and can get into detail without breaking my own brain, let me know.

Make note that this is stuff I get from reading a book that was definitive in 1805, and not even the entire book.  I am a student like you.  I cannot tell you if they use this stuff in the world of One Piece.  I cannot vouch for its usefulness in modern sailing, but if you’re that into the Age of Sail, Epitome of Navigation is a free ebook on Google and a fascinating read.

I think I have officially gone too far, though.

Next time: Important people and what they do on board a ship.

tori_angeli: (Default)

From now on, I want to see you on the dogwatches skylarking on deck, not skulking about in the cable tiers like a lot of damned Frenchmen.
-H. Hornblower

So.  A ship is not a house.  Here are the very, very basics.

The outer portion of a ship’s frame, all around, is the hull.

Any barrier which separates space vertically (therefore being itself horizontal) is called a deck.

Any barrier which separates space horizontally (therefore being itself vertical) is called a bulkhead.

Any hole in the hull of the ship for any purpose is called a port.

The terms floor, ceiling, wall, and window are not used (unless we’re talking about the stern windows that have actual glass in them).  Your character does not stand on the floor, lean against the wall, and look out the window.  They stand on the deck, lean against the bulkhead, and look out a port (and generally speaking, ports serve some purpose, such as gun ports—you don’t just have ports for the heck of it).  If you want to have your character hitting his or her head on the low “ceiling,” your character is actually hitting their head on the deck beams.

Now!  That said, these are terms your character, if they are not used to them, will take time to get used to, so have fun with dialogue.

What people usually think of as “the deck” is the spar deck, so called because this is the very top deck where the masts (aka spars) are.  It’s the one open to the sky.  If the first lieutenant cries, “ALL HANDS ON DECK!” he means for everyone to come up to the spar deck.  Really, any time you say “deck” by itself in such a context where it seems like you should be referring to a specific deck, it is assumed you are referring to the spar deck.  Britannia has all her gun ports on the spar deck, lacking a separate gun deck.  On many small vessels, the spar deck is a flush deck, meaning it is flat from stem to stern (front to back).  Britannia does not have a flush deck, so let’s go over the different sections of a fairly typical setup for a ship-of-war’s spar deck.

Around the spar deck is the bulwark, the sort of “wall” around the “edge” of the deck.  There’s a rail atop it, so it is perfectly acceptable for your character to “lean against the rail.”  Entry onto the ship can be done through the entry port, a small gap in the bulwark.

Forward (in the front, pronounced “for’ard”), we have the forecastle (“fo’c’sle,” pronounced in two syllables like “foke-sull”).  It is a deck built over the fore section of the spar deck.  Beneath it, there are often movable wooden barriers to divide space.  Sometimes the sickbay is located beneath the forecastle.  Sometimes the galley (kitchen).  It depends on the ship.  Sometimes, though, one might use the entire space of the spar deck just for guns.  In Britannia’s case, the space is used, theoretically, for guns.

Just aft of (behind) the forecastle is the waist.  This is where you’ll find the mainmast.  There’s no deck built above it.  It’s a dip in the ship’s silhouette right across the middle.

Aft of the mainmast is the quarterdeck, taking up about a quarter of a ship, another deck built above the spar deck like the forecastle.  This is where the real heart and soul of a ship is, so of all the terms we’ve mentioned, this is one of the ones you should be most intimately familiar with.  Here, you’ll find the captain and his officers during times of action or interest, as well as the helm (a wheel used to steer the ship).  The captain gives his orders from the quarterdeck.  Nowadays the exposed quarterdeck has been replaced by the enclosed bridge, just so you have a parallel.

(The famous poop deck is usually located aft, if a ship has a poop cabin on the quarterdeck.  The captain’s cabin is often in the poop cabin if a ship has one, and the deck on top of the poop cabin is the poop deck, or just the poopBritannia does not have a poop cabin, but it would be funny if it did.)

To get to the captain’s cabin or ward room, one walks down a companionway, or just a companion.  There’s a separate companionway forward that leads to the ward room (where the lieutenants, sailing master, purser, and similarly lofty sorts mess [eat together], sleep, use the head [toilet], and wash) and another from the quarterdeck that leads to the captain’s cabin.  For access to the lower decks, there is the main hatchway in the waist (a big ol’ hatch before the mainmast) with ladders down each side.

As Britannia lacks a gun deck, the berth deck is the deck below the spar deck.  Its purpose is self-explanatory.  This is where domestic stuff takes place.  It is the location of all sleeping quarters.  There is one large cabin for everyone below the rank of midshipman to sling a hammock and mess in.  On a typical ship, the only private heads are in the ward room and the captain’s cabin, but since this ship is coed, there are separate heads in the forecastle for separate sexes.  Aft of this cabin is the galley.  Forward is the midshipmens’ berth (which is sort of partitioned off but not its own cabin) and the sickbay.  Furthest aft is the captain’s cabin and furthest forward is the ward room, but these are not accessible except by the companionways on the spar deck.

Not all ships have berth decks.  Take H.M.S. Victory as an example.  She has three gun decks but no berth deck.  Instead, planks were set up between the guns as tables when it came time to eat, and hammocks were strung up between the guns when it came time to sleep.  Victory then has a spar deck, three gun decks, the orlop (which houses the sickbay, the carpenter, and quite a few other things that are not on Britannia’s orlop), and the hold.  No two ships are the same.

The next deck down is the orlop deck, or just the orlop.  This is where we find the powder magazine and other storage cabins, as well as the hatchway into the hold.  The orlop is partway under the waterline (would be fully under if the ship had all her guns), and the hold is fully so.  The hold is where we find the shot locker and the cable tier, where the shot (cannon balls) and cables (effing thick ropes, usually about sixteen inches in diameter, used for the anchor and such) are kept.

Let’s go over the hull real quick, because we can.  The bow (front of the hull) is pointed.  The stern (the back of the ship) is flat.  The seam that runs from stem to stern, going under the waterline and everything, is called the keel.  The curved timbers making up most of the ship are called, marvelously, futtocks.  Let there be laughter.   The rudder is located aft, of course, and this is how the ship is steered, redirecting the flow of water.

Next Time: Direction.

tori_angeli: (Default)

We’ll see if a spell in the rigging won’t teach you to tread more carefully.
-Lt. Eccleston

Not everything that floats is called a ship.  A ship is actually pretty specific, as specific as a brig or a schooner or a cutter or a sloop.  It’s not as broad a classification as most people think.  When you refer to a vessel as one of these, what you are really referring to is the rigging.

When you are referring to a vessel’s rigging, you are referring to pretty much everything above the spar deck.  This includes spars (masts), sails, lines (ropes), braces (more ropes), sheets (even more ropes), halyards (ropes you use to hoist certain sails), shrouds (the vertical ropes that help steady the masts), ratlines (the horizontal ropes across the shrouds you climb up), everything.  If you’re talking about, say, a sail’s rigging, you are referring to the various ropes around it and their various uses.

This is how a vessel is identified.  “Ship” is short for “ship-rigged.”  “Ship-rigged” means she is square-rigged (yards “square” with the deck, sails square) and has three or more masts.  This doesn’t mean she doesn’t carry some fore-and-aft sails (pretty much all ships do), but those are comparatively tiny and secondary to the square ones.  Schooners are typically fore-and-aft rigged (yards parallel to the deck instead of perpendicular, triangular sails), whereas brigs are square-rigged with two masts.  It’s best to do your own reading about the particular type of rigging you’ve chosen for your vessel.  These are examples.  It is most common for small vessels to have fore-and-aft rigging, whereas your very largest ones are ship-rigged.

Ship classifications can go further, based on size, purpose, and guns carried (if any).  Despite being rather small for it, Britannia is really a small frigate, being ship-rigged and capable of carrying twenty-two guns.  She’s too large to be a sloop-of-war or a post-ship, but she’s not designed to be a merchantman, either.  If we wanted, we could get into a ship’s rating and frigates vs. ships of the line (ships of the line being a replacement for galleons in the latter half of the 18th century, POTC people), but that’s somewhat off-topic.

Every single piece of rope used on a ship has a different name and purpose, but there are only two basic types.  There’s the standing rigging which is as permanent a fixture as the masts, first of all.  These are the ropes that run diagonally from various parts of the masts to secure places on the vessel for the purpose of supporting the mast.  Among these are the famous shrouds, which run from a platform just outside the hull to the top (the platform at the masthead).  More shrouds run from the top to the topmasthead.  These are supporting the sides of the masts, and further ropes secure the fronts and backs.  If you remove or cut too much of this standing rigging, the mast will fall over.  It is just too tall to support itself.

The other type is the running rigging.  These are all the ropes you pull to hoist, heave, etc.  Halyards on fore-and-aft sails like jibs and staysails are an example—you pull the thing really hard and the sail unfurls.  Sheets are another example, being used to control the sails, while braces control the yards.  Running rigging is part of the machinery of the ship.  You don’t really do anything with standing rigging besides leave it be, or splice it if it parts.

This website has some great charts showing standing and running rigging.

Masts, sails, and yards are all pretty easy.  There are only a handful of terms that can be put together in varying combinations to yield all the names you need.   These are the terms used when specifically referring to the position of one of these items.

                Front: Fore
                Middle: Main
                Back: Mizzen
                Bottom: Course (or nothing)
                Second from bottom: Top
                Third from bottom: Topgallant or t’gallant

There are some exceptions.  For example, the foretop-staysail (or stays’l) is the very front sail, but it’s not on the foremast (although it is attached to it by the standing rigging and named for it).  It has its own boom (the rod that runs underneath it like a frame) and is triangle-shaped.  The jib is above and slightly abaft (behind) it, and also has its own boom.  These booms are, appropriately, referred to as the staysail-boom and the jib-boom.  Aft (in the back) is the spanker, which has an odd trapezoidal shape.  Its boom is called the spanker-boom, one of the best nautical terms of all time.

Other than that, just combine those terms.  The results:
                Masts from front to back:

                Sails from front bottom to back top (assuming three sails per mast):
                                Mainsail or main course sail

Yards are all similar.  The “main course yard” or mainyard is the yard that holds the main course sail, or the mainsail.  That sort of thing.

Now, Britannia’s mizzenmast only carries one sail, so not all of those are relevant to us.  A larger ship might have royals, smaller sails above the t’gallants, or any number of other additional sails.  Britannia, however, is small, so she only carries a foretop-staysail, a jib, foresail, foretopsail, foretopgallant, maintop-staysail, maintopgallant-staysail, mainsail, main-topsail, main-topgallant, mizzen-sail, and spanker.  In most cases, the “a” and the “I” are left out of the pronunciation (and even the spelling) of “sail;” for example, you might refer to the “maintop-stays’l” or the “foretops’l.”

If a vessel has two masts, it has a foremast and a mainmast but no mizzenmast.  In a fore-and-aft-rigged vessel, the mainsail is the sail on the after side of the mainmast.

It gets better.  Each mast is made up of three spars, not one, each attached one on top of the other.  We are still, however, using the same terms I have been talking about.  The “topmast” is second-lowest section of the mast, where the topsail is.  The “t’gallant mast” is the very highest part of the mast, and so forth (unless a ship has royals, in which case there is a “royal mast”).  Combining all these terms gets fun, and you feel smart when you can use the term “foretopgallant mast” in a sentence.

Let’s talk about climbing up to these things.  For that, you’ll generally want to use the ratlines, or the ropes that cross the shrouds.  You know, the ones that look like big ol’ nets or spiderwebs or something?  Climb up those and get to the top at the masthead (top of the mast).  After that, you can climb through the “lubber’s hole” in the top if you’re inexperienced or around the outside if you’re experienced and trying to get to the yardarm to make (let out) or shorten (take in) sail.  More shrouds run from the top to the topmasthead.  These tops are on both the foremast and the mainmast of the Britannia (appropriately called the foretop and the maintop).  Neither of them is a crow’s nest.  A crow’s nest has a different purpose from a top.  A crow’s nest is higher up, sometimes on the topgallant masthead, and used as a lookout point and has protective railing.  A top serves more to anchor the shrouds to the mast above and is a platform without railing, but being lower on the mast is not a great lookout point.  Britannia does not, as of yet, have a crow’s nest, although if it is going to be a ship of exploration, that might be a decent enough addition.  Here's a shot where you can get a decent look at the entire ship and spot the tops on the foremast and mainmast.


The lowest shrouds are the “futtock shrouds,” the ones above the “topmast shrouds,” and the ones above that the “t’gallant shrouds.”  Seeing a pattern, for the most part?  Once you let it all sink in, it’s not too complicated.

The Britannia's sails

All the sails ever!

Next Time: Decks

tori_angeli: (Default)
Foul wind for England, monsieur.
Winds may change, monsieur.
-French captain and H. Hornblower

As I read up on tall ships and sailing in general, I’m thinking that anyone with a character in Luceti who is or will be a sailor could use some of this information, so I’m starting a series on the basics of sailing and tall ships. In this edition, we talk about the most basic of basics: the wind and your vessel.

Perhaps the best thing is to think of sailing like a game of pool with the wind as the cue stick. The sails are the sides of the ball, and direction of the vessel depends on how the winds hit them. For this reason, you don’t just sail with your wind at your back all the time. You’d go all over the place. Wind changes all the time. No, the yards (the horizontal sticks across the masts) pivot so the sails can catch the wind in different ways.

One obvious thing not to do is sail directly into the wind. That’s useless even if your destination is windward. You’d never hit the cue ball directly away from the target pocket, right? If you try to sail directly into the wind, you slow down. Your ship yaws back in the direction it was tacking from, and you start to sail backwards. Not cool. So. To avoid this, you only sail so close to the wind. Ever. Sailing close-hauled means you’re sailing as windward as you can without the wind hindering you. You can turn the ship about (called coming about or tacking) by relying on momentum to carry you through the no-go zone to windward, as long as you’re skilled and keep going. If your destination is windward, what you want to do is zig-zag. You tack every so often so you’re not going in a straight line to your destination.  This is called beating to windward.  Tacking requires manipulating both the sheets (the lines that control the sails) and the rudder.

Terminology: the term tack is used in a few different ways. As a verb, it’s the same as coming about. As a noun, it can refer to the lower corner of a sail or the position of the ship in relation to the wind. If a ship is close-hauled on the starboard tack, it means she’s sailing nearly in the direction the wind is coming from and the wind is hitting the starboard side.

If the wind is coming directly from the side of the ship or other vessel, you have to be careful that the vessel isn’t rolling too much. If it is, take in some sail.

If the wind is directly behind you (say you’re sailing northeast and the wind is southwesterly), you can square away. This means squaring the yards so they are perpendicular to the deck, or going across it. The wind is now directly behind the sails, creating those gorgeous shots you see in movies of the sails billowed out completely. This is actually kind of tricky, even if it’s the fastest way to travel. It can be hard to tell how strong the wind really is when it’s behind you and you’re traveling with it. You’re not even seeing the crests of the waves since you’re behind them. It’s easy to damage the ship if you’re not careful. More terms that talk about wind and weather can get confusing. If you say the wind is, for example, southwesterly (or sou’westerly), you mean it’s blowing from the southwest. If you talk about a sou’wester, you’re probably referring to a squall coming from the southwest.

Any questions?  Please ask on this entry and not on Plurk so others can see the answers.


tori_angeli: (sterling)
Hey, everyone.

If you play in Luceti and you subscribed to this?  It's 'cause I did the thing everyone does at some point and friend added everyone on the wrong journal, so go ahead and unsubscribe if you subscribed on an RP journal.  Thanks!

tori_angeli: (applause)

I have to come clean: mods make me hella nervous and defensive.  This isn’t one in particular, just in general, and it doesn’t matter if it’s a game or a forum or a Presidential debate.  Therefore, my rule is typically, “Don’t engage ever.”  Not to compliment, not to ask for something, nothing.  I had this exact policy when I used to work with doctors.  Some were really nice and some were prima donnas, so I treated even the nice ones with caution.  It’s best not to incite anything.  Heck, pretty much everyone reading this gets it.  Everyone’s had bad mod experiences.

So with my mod-paranoia in full force, I approach my mod-musings with a realization that I am retroactively surprised about: I am actually okay with admitting to myself that the mods here at Luceti are really, really cool.  None of them have the “small name, big ego” trip going on.  All are approachable and flexible and they tag around instead of playing just with each other like modship is a tier on an RP hierarchy.  I have never had a problem with a mod in Luceti.  Not once.  None have waved the mod-flag just because I disagreed with them, and none have acted like they have the Divine Knowledge of All Things Fandom.  They don’t expect special treatment outside the game just because they’re mods.  They’ve just been helpful people who take very seriously the responsibility to maintain a game many enjoy.  That whole responsibility in conjunction with authority thing is really nice.  Humility is nice.  They’re moderators, they’re not our employers.  If problems pop up, they handle them maturely and as peacefully as possible.  I feel as at ease around these mods as I think I am capable of, and feeling more at ease as time goes on.  Maybe there’s lingering anxiety, but I’m not going to be cured overnight.  None of the mods in Luceti have given me cause to feel this way, and the fact that it’s getting better says a lot.  Still, more important than my neurotic tendencies is that I can say, without hesitation, that I completely and utterly trust them with my beloved home game.  I’d do a trust fall to demonstrate, but we’re already doing that this very moment with the talk of moving the game.

Something I have to remember sometimes is that a mod in a game is a volunteer.  They’re not running a business.  When they do right by me, they’re not “doing their job,” they’re doing it out of pure goodwill with nothing to gain.  No one is going to stop them or make them behave if they all refuse to cooperate with us and turn Luceti into their own personal sand box , which happened in one game I played in.  Instead, they strive to make this a nice game for everyone, and I think they do a spectacular job.  They’re a great team.

This all may sound like brown-nosing, but I don’t really have anything to gain by it.  Luceti isn’t a workplace (thank God), there aren’t any special favors to be gained by being a schmoozer (thank God), and these are not the types of mods where you have to be on their good side in order to function in the community (THANK GOD).  They deserve my support and a hearty well done, and that’s the only reason to write this.  Heck, just posting this and thinking about them potentially reading it makes me crazy-nervous because I do not draw mod attention, but it needs to be said.

So this is my personal shout-out to you mods of Luceti, and others can join me if they like.  Akai, Kyo, Masa, Emily, and Cata the Baby Mod: you have been tremendous.  In giving us the option of a move from Livejournal to Dreamwidth, you have exposed yourself to the near-certainty of a Herculean task.  Whatever is decided, the transition is not going to be easy, and it’s only the support and patience of your fellow players that’s going to make it any easier on you.  I just want each of you to know you have mine, wholeheartedly and with no reservations, whichever announcement is made.

Now, I would ask that you all join me in a verse of “Be Kind to your Mod-Hatted Friends.”
tori_angeli: (bored)
This is, uh, "official headcanon" for my character on Luceti. For anyone else reading it, it's just a fanfic.  The female OC in this isn't supposed to be very likable, but since it's Horatio's POV and he can tend to romanticize women in his head, this is how she's seen by him.

The Worst Idea )


tori_angeli: (deathlikesymptoms)
Sometimes, when a character dies, you cry.  Other times, it makes you disown the book/movie/series altogether.  Here are some of the character deaths I took hardest.

Obviously, SPOILERS will happen here.

5. Tidus from Final Fantasy X
Okay, this is a weird one: I haven't even played all the way through the game.  The REASON is because I know Tidus dies at the end and I don't want to see that.  I don't even LIKE him that much, but it's awful to see someone so high-spirited go like that.  So the death is so devastating that I won't even get that far.

4. Allen Frances Doyle from Angel
I have a love-hate relationship with this series, but Doyle was by far my favorite character.  He dies ten episodes in.  Honestly, I never liked the series as much after that.  I thought his struggle to overcome sloth and fight for good was fantastic.  For a bit, it looked like they were going to replace him with Lindsey as a character fighting that same fight, but it never paid off.  So really, I never had a favorite character after he left.  I cried, and was never really invested in the show again.

3. Charlie Pace from Lost
Yeah, this death was a deal breaker for me.  Despite being a less-than-likable character in the second season, he was my favorite in season 1, and he was one of the first we could really bond with.  He was on the original expedition with Jack and Kate and had a redemption story I was dying to see play out.  And it did!  He had a death truly worthy of his character arc.  Still, it HURT.  I lingered for a few more episodes, then gave up.  I couldn't bear it without him, somehow.

2.  Archie Kennedy from Horatio Hornblower
Now, THIS death wasn't just a deal breaker--it pissed me off.  Kennedy was a PERFECT foil for Horatio, always keeping him from getting too serious.  While Horatio was protective, Kennedy was nurturing.  Horatio was somewhat stoic and naive, Kennedy was both high-spirited and troubled.  They even have the greatest buddy movie shot at one point, running in slow motion across and exploding bridge.  It was like Lethal Weapon in 1795.  But apparently the author's estate was not keen on Horatio's best friend in the A&E series being someone who didn't really exist in the books, so they made them kill off the character in time for Horatio's canon best friend to step in.  Thing is, Bush is serious, too.  They could have been a power trio!.  Horatio would be Kirk, Bush would be Spock, and Kennedy would be McCoy!  It's perfect!

What really made it devastating, I think, was the fact that Kennedy went through so many horrible things in life that we really, really wanted him to live happily ever after--he's earned it, dammit!  But he ends up sacrificing both life and reputation to save Horatio, who he's always had a raging inferiority complex with.  After years of abuse at the hands of a man who single-handedly gave him stress-induced seizures (there's implied sexual abuse), two years in a Spanish prison where he was psychologically tortured, and a constant life in his best friend's shadow, he needed something better.  But he dies young, and the only one who will remember him as he really is is the one person he really, really cares about knowing.  Horatio nursed Kennedy back to health after Kennedy had given up on life entirely and neither party forgets something like that, ever.  Neither do I.

1. Sirius Black from Harry Potter
Every time I mention this one, people say, "Yeah, and DUMBLEDORE!  Dumbledore was the worst!  I mean, Sirius was bad, but DUMBLEDORE!"

Fuck Dumbledore.  By the time that came along, I didn't care enough to read the book.  The only reason I read it was because a friend bought it for me, and unless it's a singing fish, you can't just let a gift lie around unused, right?  Anyway, I still haven't read the last one, and I don't plan to do so.

No, Sirius Black's death killed the series for me.  I respect and understand those who still love it, but he was my favorite character, dammit, and that always tends to make it harder to be interested.  I don't like character death as a rule, and when the majority of your reason for reading has died, you lose motivation.  It happens.

See, when Sirius died, I didn't just throw the book down.  I threw the book down and WEPT.  I was crying on and off for the next day.  I don't usually GRIEVE for fictional characters.  Maybe I'll get a little misty-eyed over the sadness, but I don't GRIEVE.  It was actual GRIEF.  That is embarrassingly extreme.  I eventually found it in me to finish the rest of the book, but I decided I was done with the series after that.  I don't like getting invested, then being paid off that way.  It's not really that the author is at fault--actually the fact that I got THIS invested is really to her credit--but I, individually, couldn't do the series anymore.  So the author was TOO good.  Hence this being the most devastating character death in my memory.
tori_angeli: (applause)


Mr. Yang  -  Psych  -  USA Network


I haven’t been a Psych fan for very long.  I haven’t even caught up at this point.  But I made sure to watch the episodes with Mr. Yang, and she has already become one of my absolute favorite TV villains of all time.


When I started watching the first episode featuring the “Yin-Yang Serial Killer,” I prepared myself for yet another Riddler rip-off.  It turned out to be a tad scarier than that, or at least I thought so.  Mr. Yang lives for the game and the story told within the game.  She loves messing with peoples’ minds.  When it is said that she targets someone, the target is not the murder victim—it’s the detective in charge of the case, for whom she tailors all her clues.  It’s not about winning or losing, but the wild ride on the way there.  Interestingly, she doesn’t pick Shawn as her target out of a sense of hatred (revenge?) or pride (he is the greatest at what he does, so I must defeat him!), but because she genuinely admires and even loves him and thinks this will make for the best game possible.  At the culmination of “An Evening with Mr. Yang,” set at a drive-in movie theater, she says the most astonishing thing, paraphrased here.


“You know what I love about this movie?  It has a good ending.  A satisfying resolution.  Now, this story that you and I have created together so beautifully…you wanna know how it ends?  Or do you want it to be a surprise?”


She gives Shawn a toothy grin, fingering the detonator that could explode his mother, who sits just a few cars down


A lot of insane villains try to rip off the Joker, but Mr. Yang is completely original.  She doesn’t murder out of a sense of malice.  In fact, when Shawn refuses to play her game, she lets her current victim go unharmed—only to turn around and kidnap Shawn’s mother, solely to raise the stakes and recapture her target’s cooperation.  No, she does this so she can make a compelling tale and write a book about it.  After the first episode, she does.  It ends up selling big while she chills in a padded cell.  She doesn’t seem to mind the isolation, but she relishes Shawn’s visit in “Mr. Yin Presents,” leering and making an utterly shameless pass at him that lacks any sense of irony.  It’s disturbing, in the way I like to be disturbed, that she is actually turned on by him.  She’s charismatic and creepy, affable and evil, magnificently brilliant and torrentially crazy.  But when we’re given the world from her perspective, we can see the logic.  It’s not our logic, but it’s a logic.  Even in her depravity, her character has rules, and the writers abide by them.


One of the most interesting things about her as a villain is her effect on our hero Shawn, who is generally immature and takes nothing seriously even if someone has a gun pointed at him.  It’s rare for us to see him in a truly serious moment, and before he and Yang even come face to face, he has to designate Gus as the court jester for the episode.  Otherwise, he loses focus and gets lost in the horror of the situation.  Shawn lacks the emotional maturity and resilience to really be suited to having an archnemesis, which makes it absolutely perfect for him to have one forced on him.  He buckles less when in physical danger than in emotional danger, and it’s very striking to see him go to that place.  No one, not even a seasoned officer like Lassiter, is prepared for someone like Yang to target them.  Shawn, in spite of his immaturity, does his best, forced to grow up temporarily and rethink his usual process of mucking about, goofing off, slinging about a few meaningless 80’s references, and eventually nailing the case to the wall.  Yang has a profound effect of pulling the rug out from beneath him without even speaking a word to him.


I can’t wait till we meet Mr. Yin face to face the way we met Mr. Yang.  I don’t imagine he’ll be as charming, since he’s supposed to be even more twisted than she is and they’re supposed to be opposites, but I can’t help but feel like we’ll know a little more about Mr. Yang once we’ve met Mr. Yin.  Mostly, I want to see more of Yang—all 110 grinning batshit pounds of her glorious genius.


“This is why I chose you—my most admirable foe.”

tori_angeli: (applause)

I'm just sayin'.

They made an Order of the Stick shout-out at the stunt show at the ren faire yesterday.  They made a zillion other shout-outs, but that was the best one.


tori_angeli: (Default)
Tori Angeli
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