Synthesis: The combining of separate elements or substances (through the use of a crystal catalyst and a concentrated image of the completed product) to form a complete whole.
Or at least that's how the Optistery's Encyclopedia Vana'dielia (27th edition) defines the art of manipulating otherwise useless items into wonderful weapons, equipment, and accessories. However, what lies beyond the name?
Every day, thousands of adventurers across Vana'diel practice some sort of synthesis, whether it be slicing up a Bastore sardine or smelting a copper ingot. With its simple methods and wide availability, crystal synthesis has literally taken the "craftsman" out of "craftsmanship." As long as you have a crystal, the proper items, and a few hours of practice under your belt, anyone can whip up a sturdy xiphos or a steamy bowl of pebble soup.
However, while it may be easy to dip your toes in the sea of synthesis, learning to swim can be a lot more challenging than you may think. Expect days of making the same items over and over to build up your skills, running about Vana'diel to procure rare ingredients, hours waiting in front of the local auction house trying to finalize that bid for the overpriced dozen of fire crystals. And then there are the tests for receiving new titles such as "recruit" and "artisan," as well as the restrictions that permit adventurers from becoming too skilled in more than one craft.
Perhaps all these hardships are what keep the number of registered "veterans" so low. But what about those who have made it this far? What is the driving force that allows them to overcome the obstacles that they face?
Last week, I spoke with one fairly skilled woodworker* to see if he could give us any insight into the wonderful world of synthesis. *(The interviewee's name has been changed to protect his identity.)
--Hello, sir. I was wondering if I could ask you a few questions about woodworking.
“Whaddaya want, fool!? Can't ya see I'm busy?”
--Thank you. Let's start off by having you tell us your current woodworking skill level.
“Ain't ya been listenin'? I told ya t'scram, punk!”
--It says here on the Carpenters' Guild mailing list I obtained from the Tenshodo that you are level 96.
“Yeah, and I'd be level 100 by now if you'd can the jibber-jabbber and get outta my face!”
--So close, and yet so far. Could it be that once you obtained the title of "Veteran" at level 90, you just began slacking off?
“I'll show you slacking off...!”
--Very nice. Now let's move on to my next question. Why did you choose to tread the path of the carpenter? Perhaps you have some sort of forbidden attraction to wood?
“Stop talkin' crazy, fool! I started woodworking 'cause my main job's ranger! Rangers need arrows, and I didn't have the gil t'buy 'em from the stores with my mama in the hospital.”
--I see. So an urge to wear tight green garments and prance about the forest with merry men led you to carpentry. Truly quite amazing. Might I ask what level you have attained?
“Level 72--high enough to fill your sorry butt with a barrage of holy bolts, sucka!”
--Though not the level of someone I'd like accompanying me in an unrestricted orb battle, I must admit 72 is not that bad. However, do you feel that such a high level is necessary to become a successful woodworker?
“There are some ingredients that a wussie'd have a helluva time tryin' t'find. But, for most of the junk I need, a spin around Ghelsba or a quick trip to the local guild shop does jus' fine. Why, even a fool like you could handle that!”
--Yes, maybe even a fool like me could do it. Oh, and did I mention that my woodworking skill was 97? But no matter, let us continue. Other than carpentry, are you currently a member of any other guilds?
“You can bet your Galkan sausage I am! I'm an "adept" in bonecraft, clothcraft, and alchemy. I use my alchemic skills to craft all different kinds of flamin' arrows. I use my boneworkin' techniques t'carve up some helluva tough arrowheads. An' finally, I use my weavin' skills t'make fletchings and blankets for the beds I sometimes build. Top that, fool!”
--Very impressive. I do respect a man who can quilt his own blankets. You must share your patterns with me some time. But what about blacksmithing? Aren't these skills necessary to construct high-level crossbows, and the like?
--And what about goldsmithing? If you truly wanted to make quality furnishings...
“What are you gettin' at, fool!?”
--Fine answer, sir. Now let us move on to your everyday life. We can assume that your veteran carpenter status has made you quite popular with the ladies. However, what else does a typical day hold for a man of your stature?
“I get most of my wood in the morning. Then I take it and work it down till it's nice and smooth. After handlin' it for a couple o' hours, I synthesize it into arrows. Finally, once I got a whole bunch o' those shafts in my quiver, I put on my ranger garb and shoot those babies at anything that moves.”
--Very enlightening. It truly sounds like you know how to handle wood. But I can tell by that look in your eyes that it cannot all be fun and games. What do you find most difficult or troublesome about woodworking?
“Other than the sorry fools who don't let me be?”
--Other than the sorry fools who will not let you be.
“Well, it's gotta be all the good-fo-nuthin' wind crystals that I go through in a day. If it ain't processin' lumber, it's shavin' off pieces o' bast parchment. A'most ev'rythin' I synthesize takes a wind crystal, an' those suckas ain't cheap!”
--You did know that with guild points you can purchase a technique that will let you process multiple logs with one crystal, right? I hear that many prospecting carpenters use this method to significantly reduce the amount of gil they spend on wind crystals.
“Uh... Um... Yeah, 'course I knew about that technique...”
--So, can we assume that mass amounts of practice along with your advanced method of money management have left you in the red, or have you merely squandered all your funds on opo-opo brew?
“Stop talkin' crazy, fool! I've been off the barrel for three weeks now! Anyway, I got lotsa cash thanks t'woodworkin'!”
--Lotsa cash... Would you be so kind as to elaborate?
“Do I hafta spell it out fo' ya, fool!? S-H-E-H-E-Y, shihei! Recently, there've been swarms o' ninjas runnin' 'round the place, and all of em' needs shihei for their utsusemi. I'm just takin' advantage of the situation.
Check out my bazaar. I got all you needs for your ninja deeds!
I also take special orders, if ya got the gil, o' course.”
--To procure on auction all the materials necessary to make the items you sell would cost a fortune and a half. How do you keep your prices appealing to the customer and your profits high enough to support your opo-opo brew habit?
“Easy. I just take my hatchet on down to Ghelsba and start whackin' away. Sure, there're lots o' crazy sissy punks that camp out in front of them trees like starvin' chipmunks, but there're also lots o' tasty logs waitin' for yours truly.
Sometimes I make my way over t'Tavnazia an' do my loggin' there, but that place is so huge, that I can't always find the goods I'm lookin' for.
Oh, and I thought I already told you, I ain't got no habit...anymore!”
--Yes, if you say so.
And while I'm sure shaving lumber into thousands of pieces of bast parchment and quilting countless blankets for simple beds is utterly exciting and rewarding, is there anything else you might wish to synthesize in the future?
“I've always liked woodcarvings. How 'bout a Tundra tiger with a sucka reporter stuck up in its mouth?”
And what about your most memorable creation? What work have you been most proud of in the past?
“I have pride in all my work, fool. Whadda you think!
But if I'd have to choose one, it'd be the signed terra staff I made for my mama. I was jus' gonna make a simple earth staff for her birthday, but the Goddess shined her light down on me. I guess it was the power o' love!”
--A moving story. I think I detect a tear forming in my left eye. You wouldn't happen to have a handkerchief? Maybe one you quilted yourself?
--Well, this short exchange has been quite enlightening. I'm sure all my readers have had as much fun reading this interview as I have had conducting it.
Now, before I let you return to your wood handling, do you have any advice for all those thinking of taking up the wonderful art of carpentry?
“Yeah! I pity the fool who ain't got no woodworking skills! Now give me some arrowwood or get outta my face! I'm on the jazz!”
--Thank you very much.
“As you can see from this interview, the road to synthesis mastery is one that is long and twisting. Only those with a vision, a plan of action, and a whole lot of heart can reach the glory and satisfaction that lie at the end of that road. Are you one of those few?”