Lexifabricographer - Where good concepts go to die
Words that go together, although not necessarily terribly well
Sometimes I like to pretend to be other, better people
Stands for Play By Mail, or possibly Postal Brutality Mongers
Yes, of course I have one. Doesn't mean I'm not prepared to trade for yours, though.
This is where the bodies are buried
Talk to me
Get me the hell out of here!

Thursday, September 26, 2002

Once Upon a Time

We went over to Linda and Chris place last night to play Sunny Bay Slayer, but after hearing their bad news and more or less by unspoken agreement, we decided not to roleplay. Instead we broke out a variety of board and card games and played around for a while until somebody suggested Once Upon a Time, the storytelling card game around which Andrew based his dramatic film about Machiavellian domestic politics of the same name.

The first couple of tales were a bit rough, thanks mostly to some ridiculous tangents. I freely admit that mine were the worst offenders, making the stories essentially unrecoverable. "Incoherence is a valid narrative technique" was my preposterous bluff at the time, which fooled nobody. But after that we made a couple of straightforward house rules (one tangent at a time) and the last story was much better focused and quite a bit more satisfying (it was also childishly risque, but was all the more entertaining for that). I had an absolute ball, and best of all I felt under no pressure to be "on", to keep things moving and keep the game on track. Any time I floundered I could just say "pass" and it became someone else's crisitunity.

What I found interesting was what a great icebreaker that game is for more serious roleplaying. It's like the mental equivalent of stretches before exercise. By the third game, everyone had relaxed into the mood and was contributing to the story. Without the in-game goal of trying to force the story in a particular direction in order to play out all of one's cards and so win, I think the stories could have been more narratively satisfying. For example, Jimbo's setup of the castle full of ghost philosopher-monks who had written a long-lost motivational text went criminally unresolved.

Last night's experience makes me think that perhaps what we should be looking to try within this particular group should owe less to traditional campaign-based character- and plot-focused adventure roleplaying, and more to some sort of shared-narrative game that has more of a goal of producing an evening's throwaway entertainment. That way there's less pressure to "roleplay right" and more focus on just relaxing and trying to achieve our real goal - having fun - through the tools we know best how to manipulate, ie joking around and picking up on each other's silly suggestions and running with them.

If I wasn't about to vanish from gaming for eight weeks, I'd be very keen to start trying this right now. Some experimentation is in order, I think...

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Tuesday, September 24, 2002

A bunch of stuff that happened

  • Friday - Fiona and I went to her cousin Erika's wedding at the Gold Creek Country Club. It was mostly a pretty typical wedding, but of course it had special significance for us as we toted up all the things we will be doing differently. Rule number one: speeches will be short and few, not long, rambling and extremely numerous. The speeches on Friday night took the better part of an hour and a half on Friday night, and quite frankly wore out their welcome after the first two. One of the first things we decided about our wedding was that the speeches were going to be short and funny, or if they couldn't be funny, then at least short. Frankly, the fact that we'll have been drinking on and off since breakfast on the day is likely to throw that plan into disarray, so if we start to run a little long on the night, remind us that we planned not to, will you? Which reminds me: Rule number two: Alcohol will be available for guests as soon as the ceremony is over. It's bad enough having to stand around attempt awkwardly to mingle with a bunch of people you don't know while the bride and groom go off and sign registers and get photos taken and things, but to have to do so without a drink in hand is often asking a bit much. Besides, as previously mentioned, Fiona and I will have been guzzling champagne all day by that point, so it would be grossly hypocritical not to help everyone else catch up as soon as possible...
  • Saturday - This was the "Hen's Night", though the term is a misnomer in that it started at lunchtime and pretty much all of our friends were invited. A lot of them didn't show up, mind you, but there was still enough of a critical mass that the afternoon passed quite pleasantly, in the company of good folk and plentiful beer. And a free rubber football that we got for buying our body weight in bread, although once it went over the fence (as it was inevitably destined to do) nobody bothered to retrieve it. That ennui possibly had something to do with the regrettable flogging of Adelaide at the hands of the universally reviled Collingwood, but more probably we were just too lazy.
  • Sunday - If you get a chance, go out to Bungendore, like we did on Sunday. Pick a pleasant, sunny day, wind the windows down and enjoy the drive. It's only about 20 k's past Queanbeyan, on the way to the coast. It's nothing like a whole day's worth of entertainment, but it's full of cafes and has a couple of galleries that are well worth seeing. One - the one we were visiting for a particular purpose that I will not disclose - is the Michael Scott Lees Photogallery, which doesn't seem to have a functional website, so just accept my recommendation and check it out. The other one of note is this wood gallery, which has some beautiful and stunning furniture, and a fabulous weird-arse drinks cabinet/sculpture (which reminded me, as soon as I saw it, of the end of Use of Weapons. You'll know why if you've read it). There's no direct link to it on their homepage, so to look at it, click on the link above, then hit "News" and pan down and to the right to "New Products". Then gape in awe. Then go see it for real. It's neat.

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      No, it seems to be acting up again. I guess this clears Otherblog of responsibility. That just leaves about three and a half million other blogs (including this one) on the suspect list...

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      Monday, September 23, 2002


      I notice that it seems to be working much more quickly and dependably now. Maybe it was Andrew's blog that's been making it difficult for the rest of us...

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      For once I can't blame Blogger...

      Andrew can be forgiven for thinking over at Otherblog that Lexifab's lack of updatement was something to do with the increasingly unreliable Blogger playing hard-to-get-to-work. Whereas in fact it was entirely to do with the fact that I just didn't have time last week. Work is moving out of the "running around desperately trying to make sure I've thought of everything before I disappear for eight weeks" phase and seguing into the "how the hell am I going to get all this done before I disappear for eight weeks?" phase. To which the answer is, of course, "By working rather than spending all day writing blogs".

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      Monday, September 16, 2002

      Where's your blog at?

      I've given up on the Lexifab entry I wrote last Friday, after Bloggercrashed violently during each of my numerous attempts to post it. I presume that the problem stems from one or another bit of html code that I (mis-) used, but I'm buggered if I can see anything I've left hanging or typed incorrectly. So instead I'll try cutting out and reusing the html-lite bits of it, which contain my thoughts about last week's pilot of the new Buffy roleplaying campaign. I want to preserve them because I need to keep them fresh in my mind for this week's game.

      Hopefully, therein did not lay the Blogger-killing beast.

      Ouch. Stakey.

      So last Wednesday night, somehow eschewing participation in what can only be described as TV's September 11 celebrations, we started our Sunny Bay Slayer - BTVSRPG[1] game off, with the usual mixed results. Mostly things went pretty smoothly, though there were bumps. One of them was inevitable but I should have see it coming: putting the majority of the roleplaying pressure on the two players most out of practice at roleplaying was always going to be a problem. It always takes time to settle into the skin of a new character, and when you've not been in an improvisational/character development situation for a long time, it's that much harder. So the fact that Chris and Linda played the Watcher and the Slayer respectively - the two key characters in a "pilot episode" setup - made things more awkward than I think anyone was expecting. My mistake, which did nothing to facilitate the flow, was to place too much emphasis on their roles and not place enough responsibility on Simon and Jimbo, who instead were allowed to drop into supporting rather than driving roles. I'll do my best to make things a bit more fair next week [2].

      Other minor problems were some bad guesses on my part with what Linda's plans for her character were - which I can deal with by changing the tone - and Simon's character, who has some background issues that makes keeping him in the increasingly-vampiric setting kind of difficult. I think I know how to deal with that, though.

      Unisystem blues

      The system, which apparently is a cut-down version of the rules from Witchcraft and All Flesh Must Be Eaten, worked reasonably well. It's very simple, which in theory should help create a more choreographed and fluid feel in the actions sequences, but in practice it had a bit of the old "I hit him and he takes 5 damage" back-and-forthing. Hopefully once everyone's a bit more comfortable with their characters' capabilities, they'll worry a little less about looking at the listed combat manoeuvres and a bit more on saying things like "I'll roll at keg at his legs and try to knock him off-balance" and leave the numbers to me. (Note to players - remind me I said that). The trouble with lists of Things That Your Character Can Do In This Game (like spell and skill lists in RPGs since time immemorial) is that players tend to defer to them rather than coming up with their own Cool Moves. I know I do it. I probably need to do more work on my descriptions to give the players a better sense of place.

      The other thing I need to look at is rounding out my non-player characters. I developed about eight of them in preparing the game, giving them a couple of things to do in the story and some basic stats in case they were needed. And then I completely forgot to include two of them. Of the rest, I think I only managed to successfully convey the motivations of about two of them. I don't know where I get off criticising anyone else's technique - my roleplaying was terrible! To handle that problem, I have to remember to write down a few signature comments for each character, so I see their "voice" at a glance, so to speak. Otherwise - as Simon observed - they're all just going to sound like a generic American. [3]

      1. Buffy the Vampire Slayer Role Playing Game, of course. Except that in this instance there are no undernourished blondes to be seen.
      2. Well, I did my best this week. I'm just hoping that next week it will look like it.
      3. Today's Lexifabwas brought to you by the Children's Television-Drama-Simulation Workshop.

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      Thursday, September 12, 2002

      Euro 2002

      Saturday was the day of the big Eurovision Song Contest 2002 party. Don't look at me like that, it was Meagan's idea (she even assembled a trophy in the workshop!) I just wasn't creative enough to get out of it. We all had to come in costume (think tacky, out of date and completely lacking aesthetic merit, and you've pretty much hit the Eurovision nail on the head), representing our appointed country. Most critical of all was to bring along an appropriate form of alcohol.

      I was France, so I brought wine but I couldn't think of a costume that was nationalistically appropriate. Instead I went with sleazy - bike shorts and riding top, combined with 70's sunglasses and a leather biker jacket. Op shops are just bursting at the seams with inspiration, aren't they? I was, if I say so myself, the living embodiment of slimy poor taste, and therefore perfect.

      Watching the contest itself, and rating the various acts against categories such as "Worst hair product abuse", "Most CelineDion/RickyMartinesque performance" and "Bravest performance in the face of obvious tone deafness", was rendered significantly more amusing with the application of serious quantities of alcohol. In the end, the Latvians' boring song combined with an energetic Madonna-esque strip act overcame the dodgy string, lace and glitter outfit and histrionic diva-ism of the Maltese entrant. And the Greek Devo-cyberpunk boy band with the ridiculous and repetitive lyrics and profoundly stupid dance steps were widely decried as the Worst. Act. Ever.

      Do you know, I'm actually looking forward to doing this again next year...

      Sunny Bay Slayer

      So the Buffy the Vampire Slayer roleplaying game was finally released last week, just in time for our Friday night get-together to decide what we're going to play. So, although I hauled around several alternatives, the guys decided pretty quickly that they wanted to go with the slayage. So we quickly worked up a starting concept that basically blends together key elements of beach culture, bad Aussie soapies and the expected proliferation of kung fu vampires and mystical teenage warriors. After tossing a few ideas back and forth, everyone decided to tie their characters together as a hopeful rock band, with Linda's lead singer character lumped with the additional responsibility of being the Slayer. Chris will be the novice watcher, Jimbo's a streetwise crim and Simon...well, Simon's character is the drummer.

      I spent a very fun few hours yesterday afternoon plotting out the first session and working out the basic details of the Big Bad (the Buffy game closely following the television series conceit of having a whole campaign arc that involves opposing a single powerful enemy and wasting them in the ultimate episode). Of course, no decent game plan survives contact with the players, so I'll probably be doing massive revisions on the hop in tomorrow night's game.

      I'm hoping it will go well. The only problem is going to be that we will only have a few weeks to play before I disappear for six weeks. My first priority is to make sure that my "pilot" story is wrapped up by then. I'm hopeful that it will be enough of a success that one of the others will take over the reins while I'm away and run a few fill-in sessions. I'd hate for the momentum to vanish just because I'm off in the tropics sunning myself next to a pool...

      "One Year Later..."

      ...proclaims the cavalcade of insincere, pompous, self-important, ghoulish corpsefuckers at the commercial television networks, no doubt in the throes of anticipation at tomorrow's anniversary of the terrorist attacks in America. Can you believe that those donkeyrogering scumnuts at Seven are programming round the clock coverage from about lunchtime until the next day, all devoted to picking over the bones of the World Trade Centre? I can't begin to imagine why anyone would want to sit through that kind of emotional brainrape for the better part of a day. How the hell does this sort of ash-sifting regurgitation be a good thing? How can anyone even believe that it could be?

      It sickens beyond my capacity to invent new invective to decry it.

      O Blogger, why hath thou forsaken me?

      Blogger is once again Not Playing The Game, so in all likelihood this won't actually appear on Lexifab until Thursday. Just substitute all references to "tomorrow" in the above blog with the word "yesterday". There's a good chance it will make sense that way.

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      Thursday, September 05, 2002

      Ooops. I slandered too soon.

      Looks like Ted has actually been blogging over at magicdog all week. For some reason, I couldn't see the updates until today. Hmm, either there's a bad feed between here and there or my browser is suffering unpleasant temporal distortions.

      "How about Missile Man?"/"Nah, that's a terrible name."

      I introduced Meagan to one of my favourite pulp films last night, the inimitable The Rocketeer. Apart from belatedly realising that it's another movie that James Horner does a nigh-perfect soundtrack for (along with The Lord of the Rings and Titanic and a whole really big bunch of other stuff , I also came to the conclusion that what I really like about this film is that it's full of little moments that nicely round out the minor characters. None of them are window dressing, and nearly all get tiny little moments to shine. If nothing else, it shows that the writers and directors have a better-than-average grasp of the fact that characterisation isn't always about dialogue.

      And really, I can't believe it's possible to fault a movie that contains the line "I may not make an honest buck, but I'm 100% American".[1] Or one that gets Jennifer Connelly into that dress she wears to the South Seas club. Rowr.

      Me and DVD

      Actually, I just realised that last night was the first time we'd watched anything on the new video. We bought it last Saturday to replace the one that we've been borrowing off Lou since she moved out, but it took us a few days to get it out of the box and set up, much to Meagan's distress. It's sweet. Sharp picture, sound that actually cooperates with the stereo system, stunningly fast rewind etc. Nice...

      And in less than four weeks, we're probably going to render it more or less obsolete by adding a DVD to the collection.

      Anniversary of a sort

      I'm getting married one (1) month from today. Wow! What will I do with my remaining days as a bachelor? [2]

      1. Not that the two are mutually exclusive to begin with, but it's funnier in context.
      2. It's a rhetorical question. I'm not at home to Mister Lewd Suggestion, thanks very much.

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      Wednesday, September 04, 2002

      Where have all the blogs gone?

      None of the bastards I know seems to have updated their blogs in the last few days [1], so it falls to Lexifab to remain [2] the last bastion of currency in an otherwise obsolete world. I accept your accolades with dignity and humility.

      Ow. My fucking eye. Ow. [3]

      In an indoor cricket game last night where scoring a run without getting out three times in the process was hard enough in itself, I managed to make the task a whole lot harder by blocking my batting partner's solid off drive. With my face. I had just enough time to turn my head fractionally and avoid getting a black eye and possibly suffering serious injury. The ball hit me in that little ridge along the edge of the eye socket just next to the temple [4]. Needless to say I collapsed like an extremely stunned person and rolled about in pain for a few minutes, but after I established that I still had a functional eye and that it wasn't going to puff up so much that I couldn't see out of it, I decided I could keep playing albeit slightly dizzily, and with only semi-reliable depth perception.

      This morning, I have a slight bump and almost invisible swelling [5], so it could have been worse. Of course, the other team beat us by just under 100 runs, but since that's 100 runs less than the margin last time they beat us, I call it a success all round.

      The play's the thing [6]

      It's finally almost just about time to start playing games again with the old gang of Jimbo, Simon, Linda and ChrisT, now that the latter is finally settled in. We would have been meeting tonight, but Jimbo can't make it and I really want to try to get one of those synergistic, cooperative, coordinated character generation things going, and you really need everyone in the same place for that to happen. So instead it's going to be Friday night.

      In any case this is going to be kind of an awkward phase, since there seems to be some general agreement that what we would all quite like to play is the Buffy roleplaying game, which is a setting that we're all familiar with and fond of, and which is apparently receiving rave reviews since it debuted at GenCon a few weeks ago. The only problem is that it hasn't been released here yet, and given the vagaries of hobby supplies distributors and international shipping, it may or may not show up before I go away. So we're left with trying to find something to fill in the space between then and now.

      I personally don't think it matters what we play, since the key will be to get us all back into the vibe of working together and playing off one another's strengths. Think of it as being like getting a band back together after years apart - it takes time to find your sound again, but it's worth investing that time before you start on the world tour.

      1. 1: Well, except that marathon about filming a music video that Andrew seems to be wading through
      2. 2: Or rather, become.
      3. 3: To steal a headline from one of the aforementioned static journals.
      4. 4: And really, you have to question a survival instinct that protects an injury to the eye by instead presenting up the temple as a target for bludgeoning.
      5. 5: Because it's swollen slightly open, it feels like I'm constantly surprised.
      6. 6: What, you're quoting Shakespeare in your paragraph headers now? Jeez, whatta tool!

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      Monday, September 02, 2002

      I call the big one "Bitey"

      I made my final appearance at the Sunday D&D game yesterday, not wanting to walk out on the game without letting the rest of the players know (it's only polite) and to try to arrange the tying up of loose ends so that my departure would not disrupt.

      So anyway, my character got bitten into pieces and eaten by a wereshark [1]. Ouch! Well, I couldn't really ask for a more definitive sense of closure. To be honest, I was actually pretty happy about having him die off. I get very attached to my characters, but I rarely mind it when they die. I'm never very comfortable when they somehow manage to cheat a death that I have become resigned to, as often happens in the Sunday game (usually by an implausible last-minute intervention by one of the other PC's). I also didn't want to see my character quit the quest they're on and go off to do something else, as had been planned for him if I didn't show up, because he was quite devoted to the cause and it would have rubbed me the wrong way to have him pike out. Much better to be shredded before his friends' horrified eyes by an eight foot sharkman mercenary. Oh yes.

      1: Before anyone asks, it was absolutely not one of those "spiteful GM kills your character off for having the temerity to drop out of his game" things. It was just awesomely bad luck on my part. Considering it was the second time in that session that I had rolled a double-fumble while fighting something that could instantly kill him, it was amazing that the character lasted as long as he did. It was the consensus of the table that it was obviously his day to have his ticket punched...

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