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Owen Turner
Owen Turner

Helpless ~UPD~

As a full-round action, an enemy can use a melee weapon to deliver a coup de grace to a helpless foe. An enemy can also use a bow or crossbow, provided he is adjacent to the target. The attacker automatically hits and scores a critical hit. (A rogue also gets his sneak attack damage bonus against a helpless foe when delivering a coup de grace.) If the defender survives, he must make a Fortitude save (DC 10 + damage dealt) or die. Delivering a coup de grace provokes attacks of opportunity.


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Helpless (also known as freefall, special fall and various other names, and called "fallspecial" in game data) is a state in which characters are unable to take any action, with the exception of grabbing a ledge, maneuvering left/right, fastfalling, or climbing a ladder, until they land on the ground or pass a blast line. Helplessness is typically associated with just having used one's triple jump, although it also occurs after using certain other special moves (usually ones which help recovery). Many special moves involving controllable projectiles (such as Ness's PK Flash and Zelda's Din's Fire) cause helplessness as well in all games besides Ultimate. Some special moves are programmed to transition to helplessness early upon contact with a platform. In the case of soft platforms, holding down to drop through them will result in the player becoming helpless before the move is usually over.

Helplessness most commonly ends upon landing on the ground or being KO'd, although it also ends if characters flinch, allowing them to attack or re-use their triple jump. A helpless character is denoted by both a flickering black overlay and a distinct falling animation.

Curiously, the helpless state gives characters an extra ability in Super Smash Bros.: the ability to fall through soft platforms without landing on them. Starting in Melee, this can be done at any time (not just when a character is helpless).

My colleague has a theory about the helplessness problem: he says students send emails as a deflective maneuver, and many are so reluctant to tackle the assignment at hand that they will employ a delaying tactic of sending inquiries instead. (Who is the writer? What was the assignment? When is the paper due? How long does it have to be?)

So what do we, as instructors, do in the helplessness culture? Do we capitulate to students, ask ever and ever less, and respond to emails and provide instructions in increasingly redundant ways? Or do we stand and fight the battle for instilling in our students the kind of accountability, autonomy and self-awareness our institutions tout? To do the former, in my opinion, only degrades academe; to do the latter risks the wrath of both students and administration.

"unable to act for oneself," c. 1200, from help (n.) + -less. Related: Helplessly; helplessness. In Middle English and later sometimes "unable to give help, affording no help" (late 14c.), but this never was common.

Yet, this victory seems puzzling. In the fable, the tortoise wins the race because the hare takes a nap. But, if anything, human infants nap even more than kittens! And unlike the noble tortoise, babies are helpless, and more to the point, hopeless. They could not learn the basic skills necessary to their independent survival even if they tried. How do human babies manage to turn things around in the end?

Babies develop slowly and must learn pretty much everything from scratch, including how to ask for what they need. But babies are not quite as helpless as they seem, especially when it comes to language.

1. Who is this, so weak and helpless,Child of lowly Hebrew maid,Rudely in a stable sheltered,Coldly in a manger laid?Tis the Lord of all creation,Who this wondrous path has trod;He is Lord from everlasting,And to everlasting God.

That starts to explain the long road that a human baby must travel from helpless newborn, to child, to adult, considering how much they need to learn from their parents about communication and social behavior.

Though it may seem like humans' early physical capabilities lag behind those of other animals as newborns, in the long run, humans' lengthy period of relative helplessness eventually delivers a substantial cognitive payoff.

Human babies enter the world utterly dependent on caregivers to tend to their every need. Although newborns of other primate species rely on caregivers, too, human infants are especially helpless because their brains are comparatively underdeveloped. Indeed, by one estimation a human fetus would have to undergo a gestation period of 18 to 21 months instead of the usual nine to be born at a neurological and cognitive development stage comparable to that of a chimpanzee newborn. Anthropologists have long thought that the size of the pelvis has limited human gestation length. New research may challenge that view.


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