The Good the Bad and the Unforgivable

Sorry, beloved reader, the title of this post is somewhat misleading; there is little good involved, apart from maybe laughing your abs into a six-pack at what follows. Here at Level Up our geek glands rage 24/7, whether it be for fantasy, Sci-Fi, RPGs or comics. But whenever there is good, there must be bad. A sad and kind of Taoist truth. Nerdy entertainment does seem to be a metaphorical yin-yang rollercoaster of laughter and tears. Today it’s tears I’m afraid. Your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor has searched high and low for the most terrible, offensive and downright awful. For every Batman or Tony Stark, there’s a Kylun or a Typeface. Prepare to be impressed / unimpressed by characters that had to be created whilst drunk, high or threatened at gunpoint.

Kylun

A crappy Thundercat rip-off with crappy powers.

A crappy Thundercat rip-off with crappy powers.
Essentially he is a humanoid tape-recorder.
How very 80’s.

Once a member of the British mutant team Excalibur and looking like a humanoid lion pretty much explains this blasphemy in printed format. He basically, being rather cat-like, had slightly better strength and agility than most and better senses. His main power wa to be abl to mimic nay sound. That’s it. That’s his angle, that’s what got him in a superhero team that defends the entire UK against super-powered threats. He also had magic swords that could not cause harm to the pure of heart, these lame blades turned up in later comics when the writers realised that he was so very rubbish. Needless to say, even with the new swords, he didn’t last long.

Wraith

You'd think he'd be much groovier with a name like that.

You’d think he’d be much groovier with a name like that.

So, what can this Wraith character do? Can he become ethereal / incorporeal? Is he some sort of demonic other-worldly monster? Maybe even a soul-sucking, hell-born beast to be feared by all mortal men? Nope. Hector Rendoza’s ‘fearsome’ power is to have invisible skin. The X-Men took pity on him after he had been beaten s**tless by some normal, genetically average, humans. In a fight that he started. He nearly died from his wounds, but it was really easy to see if he had eaten that cheesecake you’d been saving in the fridge. He can transfer his transparent epidermisery to other people, making him the only mutant so terrible that his own body is trying to offload the X-gene. There were other characters in the Marvel universe called wraith too, all of them a damn sight more useful. There was John Wraith, he had military training, an extended lifespan and could teleport. There is also Brian DeWolff, known as Wraith, an ex-policeman with psionic powers and then we have Zak-Del Wraith who is immortal and has a gun that can transform into any kind of gun imaginable. Why Marvel? Why did you create Hector Rendoza the kid with invisible skin?

Jihad!

Un-freakin'-believable.

Un-freakin’-believable.

That’s right, beloved reader, freakin’ Jihad. Marvel comics presented us with is genie in a Fantastic Four storyline, where the bright green turbanless behemoth sent them on an item retrieving mystical quest. The character was a little controversial, his first appearance was eleven days before the September 11th attacks, and Jihad was a character bent on world conquest. For reasons I cannot fathom he hasn’t made an appearance since.

Typeface

Unemployment is hard to deal with in the USA apparently. It drives people to use giant lettering as weaponry.

Unemployment is hard to deal with in the USA apparently. It drives people to use giant lettering as weaponry.

The economy is the real villain in this tale. Ex-US Army soldier Gordon Thomas went home to become a sign smith. The American dream. But alas, poor Gordon’s dreams were shattered when he was laid off from his job at ‘Ace Signs’ when a man named George Finch takes over the company. Mr Thomas does what anyone else would do in that situation; he wrote a giant ‘R’ on his forehead, for ‘retribution’, called himself Typeface and went on a rampage with an arsenal of giant letters. The saddest part of this tale is that he actually kicked the crap out of Spiderman. He then changed the ‘R’ on his spam to an ‘A’ for ‘Annihilation’.

Squirrel Girl

She is kinda sexy. Anyone else developing a squirrel fetish?

She is kinda sexy. Anyone else developing a squirrel fetish?

Doreen Green is her name and she can communicate with squirrels. Yup, that’s right beloved reader, once again Marvel comics have subjected us to more lameness. For some reason though, she is extremely accomplished in the area of villain butt-kicking. Teamed up with her squirrel companion Tippy-Toe, she has defeated Doctor Doom, a task that the entire of the Fantastic Four have difficulty with and in another story line the bushy-tailed duo have even defeated Thanos. For those of you who don’t know who Thanos is, please follow the handy link to discover how incredibly powerful and god-like he is. But give credit where credit is due, the Marvel writers had to be pretty creative to pull off those stories.

Hemo-Goblin

hemo-goblin

What can I say about this guy? Really?

It’s DC comics turn to bow their collective heads with shame. This character covers the trendy topics of racism and AIDS in one horrifying package. He is basically a vampire, which generally are powerful enough critters to take on super powered folk. The skinny albino blood sucker was created, laboratory style, by a white supremacist group to rid the world of anyone who wasn’t a honky. This is accomplished by giving them AIDS, which he managed to infect some of the members of the New Guardians with. Thanks DC.

These characters are terrible. How can it possibly get any worse?

Behold!

Armless Tiger Man

Pfft. Ha. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Pfft. Ha. ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha.

Yes, beloved reader, we’ve saved the ‘best’ for last. Armless Tiger Man is a man – wait for it – with all the power of an armless tiger. Like our feline chum Kylun, Gustav Hertz has the augmented agility, strength, senses etc. of that great hunting cat, the tiger; but without the baggage of having arms. Who needs the encumbrance of four limbs? Especially prehensile ones. This extremely bipedal chap was a WWII villain who lost his arms whilst working as a machinist. Quite appropriately he then vowed vengeance upon all things industrial. He was eventually caught by the Gestapo who sent him to America to wreak his two limbed, anti-machine hatred.

Until next time. Stay informed.

Addressing the Target

There should be a boom in this wonderous and deliciously roguish art given recent TV programming and RPG rogue and / or ranger enthusiasts should start their larceny and / or geekiness glands pumping.

Oliver Queen. If you haven't seen the show simply titled 'Arrow', then I suggest you do so immediately.

This is Oliver Queen.
If you haven’t seen the show simply titled ‘Arrow’, then I suggest you do so immediately. Now.

That’s right, beloved reader, today your friendly neighbourhood Rogue Advisor will be taking you through kinesiological attribute enhancement for the noblest and most dextrous form of marksmanship.

Archery

So what makes a good archer? The same mighty stuff as any other athlete; firstly knowledge in one’s chosen art, then the discipline to apply the know how, followed by the hard work to see it all through to fruition.

We wont be going too deep into technique; trying to teach someone the finer points of archery from a blog would be like trying to teach a vegan how to prepare Halal. Therefore, beloved toxophilite, we will cover the very basics and then the juicy kinesiology. Yay.

1 – Stance: Stand perpendicular to your target, feet roughly shoulder width apart and straddling the shooting line. Balance your weight evenly over both feet, maintaining perfect posture but don’t stiffen your spine, it will need to remain flexible to absorb recoil. Place your back foot parallel with the line and angle the forward foot slightly toward the target whilst keeping a little slack in the knees.

2 – Nock: Sounds simple but there is a technique to this, all these stages matter. Nocking the arrow is the part where you place it against the bow-string and also preparing to draw. Be  sure that the index feathers point away from the bow, lay the arrow itself upon the arrow-rest, then snap the nock onto the bow-string under the nocking point. Simple. This process guarantees a consistent draw every time, assisting accuracy. Once your set, take the string in the first joint of the first three fingers of the drawing hand.

3 – Pre-draw: Raise the bow towards the target and lock the extended bow arm into position.

At a point like this you'll really want to be drawing faster. With enough practice it'll all happen in a flash.

At a point like this you’ll really want to be drawing faster. With enough practice it’ll all happen pre-trampling / goring rather than post mutilation.

4 – Draw: This is where the kinesiology comes in; pushing with the tricep of the bow arm and pull back with the latissimus dorsi, posterior deltoid and outer head of the biceps brachii of the drawing arm until the bow-string touches your nose and lips. Your elbow should stop behind and slightly above your shoulder, putting the resulting muscular tension on the mid-trapezius fibres.

5 – Anchor: The final stage of a correctly performed draw sequence. In the anchoring stage the drawing hand comes to rest against your face before aiming and releasing. The anchor point can be either the chin or cheek, whichever you feel most comfortable with.

6 – Aim: This really cannot be instructed, it will become second nature over time. Try to align the bow-sight with the target and try to factor in wind, distance and drift.

7 – Release: Squeeze all those muscles tight that you now are working to hold the position, open the drawing hand and let that arrow fly.

8 – Follow through: When the arrow leaves the bow, continue pulling the drawing hand along the base of your neck and allow the bow to move forward in your bow-hand. Then inspect your handy-work.

Hawkeye demonstrates the stance and by proxy those muscles used when performing it, that we will be focusing on.

Hawkeye demonstrates the stance and by proxy those muscles used when performing it. That’s what we will be focusing on.

The supplementary workout

Because that’s what it is. When you are training for a skill such as archery, the resistance training is an added bonus to hours of technical drills and target practice. This routine would be best practiced only once or twice per week, and not on consecutive days. Why are we focusing on enhancing the above stance? Because pulling back a bow-string isn’t an easy task, then to keep it steady whilst aiming is even harder. Therefore, beloved reader, we are strengthening the muscles involved so the archer themselves can maintain the stance for extended periods, allowing longer to aim with fresh perspective and therefore greater accuracy. Logic. Follow the handy links for exercise instruction, (sorry but Level Up still is bereft of recording equipment; stay tuned), and perform two to three sets of each.

Seated cable rows, (with isometric contraction): We begin the workout with focus on the lats and the mid-trapezius; they are doing the greatest deal of work. First the lats are the prime movers in pulling the bow-string back with the hands somewhere between a supinated and pronated grip, thus the choice of grip on the exercise. Once back there though, the mid-trapezius is holding everything steady for as long as it takes to make the shot. That’s where isometrics comes in handy, at the peak of each concentric movement hold that position of two seconds before repeating the movement; really focusing on the mid-trapezius. Go comfortably heavy on these; enough weight to manage 10 to 12 reps with perfect form.

Bent-over dumbbell flye: Next is the rear head of the deltoids. It has already been assisting the lats and traps on the pull, now we want them to become inexhaustible pillars of contraction. Be really carefull with form on this movement, keeping the lower back perfectly straight and be sure not to cheat / swing the weight up into position. Mid to light weight with these, perform around 12 to 15 reps on this movement.

Dips, (with isometric contraction): The tricep of the extended arm is stabilising the bow, thus we need to work the three-headed rear of the arm muscle with isometric work. Pause and hold at the lowest point of the dip, the mid-point of the movement and at full extension for 10 seconds. This tactic essentially takes the plyometric effect out of the equation, forcing the triceps to become stabilizing machines. Nice. Only perform one set of these for as many reps as possible.

Concentration curls: Just as the triceps have three ‘heads’ that make up the whole muscle group, biceps have two distinct ‘heads’. We will be focusing on the long head, (outer head), that is also assisting with our bow-string pulling. Go super light on these, they are the proverbial cherry on the kinesiology cake and nothing more. Aim for 12 to 15 reps.

Cable twists: Once the bow-string is pulled all the way back, any further turning to aim is done by the transverse abdominus. This little number will not only make the action of turning to aim quicker and easier, it’ll tone the waistline to heroic slimness. Sweet.

Note that it’s not a full body workout, that would be entirely up to the individual archer whether or not they wish to pursue such levels of fitness. This supplementary workout is intended to strengthen basics.

Hopefully you feel a little more ballistically inclined.

Hopefully you feel a little more ballistically inclined.

Terminology

Just to keep things concise and informative, beloved reader, I present the terminology of this fine skill in all it’s medieval jargonified glory.

  • Addressing the Target: The archer’s stance straddling the shooting line prior to shooting the arrow.
  • Aim: Visually lining up a sight pin to the center of the target; if a sight is not used, visual placement of the tip of the arrow on a specific point while shooting at a target over a given distance.
  • Anchor Point: The fixed position of the bowstring hand on the jaw or cheek while holding or aiming.
  • Archer’s Paradox: Situation in which the arrow flies in the direction aimed although its initial movement is in a different direction.
  • Arm Guard: Device worn on forearm and wrist areas of the bow arm to protect the arm from impact.
  • Arrow Plate: The piece to which the arrow rest is attached.
  • Arrow Rest: Device mounted just above the arrow shelf on the bow on which the arrow rests during draw, hold and release.
  • Arrowsmith: Individual specializing in making arrows and/or arrowheads.
  • Back: The side of the bow limb away from the string.
  • Bare Bow: Method of shooting which does not use a bow sight.
  • Billet: One of two short pieces joined at the handle to make a bow.
  • Blunt: Arrow with a blunt tip for use on small game.
  • Bow Arm: The arm in which the bow is held.
  • Bowyer: One who makes bows.
  • Brace/String Height: Distance between the pivot point of the bow and the string. AKA: Fistmale.
  • Bracing: Process of stringing the bow in preparation for shooting, by placing the bowstring loops into position in the notches of the bow.
  • Bull’s Eye: The center of the target or that part of the target face with the highest scoring value.
  • Butt: A mound of straw on which the target face is placed.
  • Cast: the speed with which an arrow is shot.
  • Clout: Shooting at a relatively long distance at a large target lying, or painted, flat on the ground.
  • Composite Bow: Bow composed of two or more materials, such as wood and fiberglass. Invented by H.W. Allen in 1966, designed with an eccentric pulley system to maximize pull weight poundage at mid-draw and minimize stacking at full draw.
  • Bow Creeping: Undesired forward motion of the bowstring from the anchor point immediately prior to release.
  • Crest: Colored bands on the arrow used to identify a set.
  • Director of Shooting: The individual in charge of shooting. AKA: Field Captain; Lady Paramount.
  • Double Round: Shooting the same round twice.
  • Draw: The process of moving the bowstring with nocked arrow from brace height to the archer’s anchor point on the face.
  • Drift: Deviation in the flight of an arrow due to wind.
  • End: A set number of arrows which are shot before going to the target (typically 3, 5, or 6) to score and retrieve them.
  • Face: The side of the bow nearest the string. AKA: Belly.
  • Finger Tab: Leather device worn to prevent blistering on the surface of the three drawing fingers.
  • Fletching: The stabilizing feathers attached to an arrow between the nock and crest. See vane.
  • Follow-Through: The act of holding the release position until the arrow has struck the target.
  • Freestyle: Style of shooting using a bow-sight.
  • Flu-Flu: An arrow with large or spiraled fletchings, which increase drag and reduce the arrow’s range.
  • Grip/Handle: The center portion of the bow where the hand exerts pressure during the draw.
  • Grouping: The arrangement of the end of arrows on the target face after they have been shot.
  • Hanging Arrow: An arrow that does not penetrate the target, but dangles from its point.
  • Hen Feathers: The two feathers on either side of the index feather. Traditionally, these feathers are not as flamboyant as the index feather.
  • Hit: An arrow which embeds itself within one of the scoring areas on the target face.
  • Holding: The act of maintaining the bow and arrow in a stable position at full draw prior to release.
  • Index Feather: The feather at right angle to the slit in the nock of the arrow and usually a different color from the remaining feathers. AKA: cock feather.
  • Kick: When the bow shoots with a jar to the bow hand.
  • Kiss Button: A contact point on the bowstring for the archer’s lips to touch as to insure consistency and accuracy of the anchor point.
  • Let Down: Releasing tension after drawing without releasing the arrow.
  • Limbs: The energy-storing parts of the bow located above and below the riser.
  • Longbow: A long, relatively straight bow that preceded the recurve bow in many cultures.
  • Nock: Device on the end of the arrow opposite the point, made with a groove for holding the arrow to the bowstring when placed in position for shooting.
  • Nocking: The technique of placing the arrow on the bowstring in preparation for shooting.
  • Nock Locator: The stops on the serving of the bowstring which mark the nocking point for the arrow.
  • Nocking Point: The position on the string where the arrow is placed. Typically marked by the nock locator.
  • Notch: The slits at the ends of the bow for the string.
  • Overdraw: Drawing the arrow beyond the face of the bow or drawing the bow to its point of maximum stress on the limbs.
  • Peeking: Undesired motion of the archer’s head at time of release in an attempt to follow the arrow trajectory into the target.
  • Plucking: Undesired lateral motion of the string hand and arm away from the bowstring at time of release.
  • Point/Pile: The tip of the arrow that pierces the target. Classifications include: target; field; broadhead; and blunt.
  • Point-Blank Range: Distance at which the archer may utilize the center of the target as an aiming point.
  • Point-of-Aim: A technique, whereby the archer uses a mark unattached to the bow and usually on the ground as an alignment point.
  • Pressure Point: Place on the arrow plate against which the arrow lies and exerts pressure when the arrow is released. It can be cushioned or spring-loaded.
  • Quiver: Any device designed to hold arrows not being shot.
  • Range: Area designated for target or field archery.
  • Rebound: An arrow that bounces off the target face.
  • Recurve Bow: Bow manufactured so the ends of the limbs deflect toward the back of the bow to increase leverage when the bow is braced.
  • Release: The act of putting the arrow into flight due to a release of pressure on the bowstring. AKA: Loose.
  • Riser: The areas of the bow just above and below the grip.
  • Round: Term used to designate the number of arrows to be shot at specific distances at specific target faces or targets.
  • Self Bow: A bow made of one piece of wood or raw material.
  • Serving: Protective thread wrapped around the bowstring where the arrow is nocked.
  • Shaft: The body of the arrow upon which the nock, fletching, and point are mounted, and the crest is printed.
  • Shooting Line: The line straddled by archers during shooting which indicates a specific distance from the target in target archery.
  • Sight/Bow-sight: Adjustable device attached to the bow which facilitates the aiming process for the archer.
  • Skirt/Petticoat: The outermost perimeter of the target face outside the scoring area.
  • Spine: The measured deflection of an arrow when depressed by a two-pound weight at its center.
  • Stabilizer: Weighted device added to the riser of the bow and designed to reduce torque and absorb shock upon release.
  • Stacking: Disproportionate increase in bow weight during the last few inches of the draw.
  • Stave: Full-length piece of wood used to make a bow.
  • Tackle: Equipment used by an archer.
  • Target Captain: Individual at each target designated to determine and call the score of each arrow and pull them from the target.
  • Target Face: The scoring area of the target.
  • Tiller: Device for holding the bow at draw and to inspect the curvature.
  • Toxophilite: Individual pursuing the sport of archery, as a participant and/or student.
  • T-Square: Device used to measure brace height and locate the nocking point on the bowstring.
  • Trajectory: The parabolic flight pattern of an arrow following release.
  • Tuning: Adjustment of arrow rest, pressure point, string height and nocking height to improve arrow flight; includes determination of correct spine.
  • Vane: A term used most commonly when fletching is made of plastic or rubber instead of feathers.
  • Weigh/Draw Weight: The bow manufacturer’s determined number of pounds required to draw each bow’s string at a given draw length.
  • Windage: The effect of wind on the arrow’s flight.
  • Window: Viewing space between the side of the bow and the string at full draw.
You should now feel able to select a perk. Yay.

You should now feel able to select a perk. Yay.

Until next time. Stay informed.

 

Lock Picking 101.

Get your scoundrel glands pumping, your Rogue Advisor is here to put you back on the crooked and dodgy.

Lock Picking

What do we learn from Skyrim? Practice does make perfect. Yay.

What do we learn from Skyrim? Practice does make perfect. Yay.

You’ve done it a million times in RPGs: The adventuring party’s rogue has hidden in shadows and moved silently past the guards, somehow managed to evade and / or disarm any traps on route, approaches a door and gives a cursory look around before deftly picking the lock. A skill that only works in pure fantasy.

Or is it?

That’s correct, beloved reader, today your Rogue Advisor will teach you the basics of the fine art of lock picking. Yay. Before we go any further, I must mention the legalities: It’s naughty. Look out for the law. This article is for knowledge only, or if you find yourself locked out of your own house.

How do locks work?

First we focus on our target. As 5 – 6 pin tumbler locks are the most common, we’ll cover them, giving you free entry to all but the most stubborn places. The big secret of lock picking is that it’s easy, you’re simply exploiting the mechanical defects inherent in any manufactured product.

After this we shall be totally ignoring keys. They are superflous.

After this we shall be totally ignoring keys. They are superfluous.

The pin tumbler lock consists of a cylinder that can rotate within its housing. When locked, the cylinder is kept in place by several pairs of pins. The top pin of each pair protrudes into both the cylinder and the housing, thus preventing the cylinder from turning. When a key with the correct shaped ‘teeth’ is inserted, it pushes the pairs of pins up so that the top pins no longer enter the cylinder. When this happens, the cylinder can be turned and the lock will open. Simple.

Tools of the nefarious trade

prolockpicks

That is what a professional basic set of lock picks look like. They are surprisingly easy to purchase. But your ever considerate Rogue Advisor would never expect you to go and spend your hard-earned money in such a manner.

So here’s how to pick locks Hollywood spy thriller style

You’ll need 3 large paperclips and pliers.

Get to work on 2 of the paperclips with the pliers and bend them thus:

The one on the left is the 'rake'. The one on the right is the turning 'wrench'.

The one on the left is the ‘rake’. The one on the right is the turning ‘wrench’.

Getting down to business

1. Place the turning ‘wrench’ in the bottom of the key way, and apply pressure in  a clockwise direction.

Meanwhile, inside the lock.

Meanwhile, inside the lock.

2.  On most locks you’ll be able to cheat a bit here: Stick the ‘rake’ in the lock up the top of the key way and thrust it rapidly back and forth against the pins. This will make the pins ‘jump’, most if not all of them will eventually go up into their housings and out of the cylinder’s way allowing it to turn. Remember to keep the pressure going clockwise on that turning ‘wrench’. Unfortunately, cheating like this is noisy. If you want to be true to the ways of espionage then you’ll want to skip to step 3.

It actually does look like this inside.

It actually does look like this inside.

3. Moving the pins one by one: If locks were perfect, we wouldn’t be able to pick them. We would apply pressure with our turning ‘wrench’ and every pin would bind at once. When we lift up on one of them, all of the other pins would hold the cylinder in place, and the pin we lifted would fall right back down again. In reality, locks are riddled with tiny manufacturing defects, usually minor enough that we wouldn’t notice them with the naked eye, but each difference injects vulnerability into the lock. Perhaps the pin chambers aren’t drilled in a perfectly straight line, or some of them are slightly larger or smaller than the others. Maybe the pins aren’t perfectly de-burred or have simply worn unevenly from regular use.

This is where the third paper clip comes in handy. Just bend it like the 'rake' except with just one bump at the end.

This is where the third paper clip comes in handy. Just bend it like the ‘rake’ except with just one bump at the end.

This isn’t like what you see in the movies. You can’t just jiggle the lock pick around for a couple of seconds and it pops open. This step requires a little patience and a bit of DEX.

When we take those aberrations into account, and apply our turning pressure again, we’ll find that one pin binds before all of the others.

Your job is to find that first, most defective pin.

With tension applied, insert your pick into the lock and lift up a pin. If you feel it springing right back down at you, that is not your binding pin. Move on to the next pin. When you feel a pin resist you, carefully lever it up until you feel it stop. Once that pin has reached the shear line — and I cannot overstate this — the cylinder will rotate, just a little bit, nearly imperceptibly. When the cylinder turns, the next defective pin will bind, and the driver pin you’ve just set above the shear line will sit on the shoulder of the cylinder that has turned beneath it. Simply repeat for each pin until you feel the cylinder give up all resistance and turn. Remember to keep pressure on the turning ‘wrench’ the whole time.

lockpickinginside

Until next time. Stay informed.