Lexifabricographer For when the right word just won’t do…

October 16, 2012

MRP 15 – New phone! and other stories

Filed under: Games,news of the day,the month of relentless positivity — lexifab @ 2:36 pm

I missed yesterday’s entry because of Reasons Unrelated to Positivity [1], and the window for catching up is short, so while I do intend to make up for lost time, today’s [2] relentless positivity will be in cursory list form:

New phone – I am about to join the 21st century and become the possessor of my first smart phone, albeit a nigh-obsolete one that the more zeitgeisty elements of society abandoned probably 2 or 3 years ago – the Samsung Galaxy S II. Probably somewhere near the bottom of the range of smart mobiles on the market, but I am not a power user of mobile telephony by any stretch. It will make calls, send texts, take photos (all of which my previous crappy phone, a bottom-of-the-range Nokia, also did), play music & podcasts and connect to the internet. [3] The only differences anyone else is likely to notice are that I will be able to actually view photos sent to me by SMS and I will be able to use Twitter more easily. I don’t intend to go overboard in using it to play games or access the net, but if anyone has any essential Android apps they recommend, let me know.

Games – Fans of old-school computer RPGs like Baldur’s Gate [4], Fallout and Planescape: Torment may be interested in this Kickstarter for a game called Project Eternity. The production team includes alumni of all of the aforementioned games who, assembled as a veritable Voltron of CRPG design, aim to make a crazily ambitious new world with all the requisite mega-dungeons, sassy companions and morally complex stories [5]. The Kickstarter campaign is in its last 24 hours and they are on the verge of adding an extra major city to the setting. That would be rad!

And hey, I really, really need another thing to distract me from writing, because yesterday I came this close to editing one of my short stories. Luckily I had to do tax accounting for a few hours and then pass out from a heavy dose of painkillers to stem the stabbing pains in my knee, because otherwise I would have committed the Sin of Creativity!


[1] Being that the baby wombat is now two days into a bout of unpleasant gastro, and she needs my time more than this blog does. Although her much-needed nap does afford me a quick moment to make up some lost ground. But not much.

[2] Technically, it’s yesterday’s, and today’s will come either today or tomorrow – but now I’m confusing myself.

[3] Tellingly, my wife is still using a Motorola with a monochrome screen, which still does everything she needs it to (send calls and send incredibly rare text messages). She is clearly the more sensible of the two of us.

[4] Holy crap, Baldur’s Gate is coming out for iPad and Android soon? That is also rad!

[5] Well, more complex than “stab/shoot all the green/black people”, at any rate.

April 5, 2012

More Kickstarting

Filed under: Games,the interweb she provides,Uncategorized — lexifab @ 11:37 pm

I had noble intentions to post up the Deborah Biancotti review tonight, but I have kids who feed off the sleep deprivation of others. The squamous little fatiguovores. So instead I will direct your attention, all sleight-of-handishly, to a handful of rather awesome creative projects currently in need of sponsorship.

The Dinocalypse Trilogy by Evil Hat, Chuck Wendig and now a bunch of other people. To kick off the fiction line of their rip-roaring pulp-action Spirit of the Century game, Evil Hat Productions have invited funding for a trilogy of novels by Chuck Wendig. I will say only this: Time-travelling psychic dinosaurs invade New York. If that sentence is not enough to absolve these books of the presumed sin of being gaming tie-in novels, your tastes and mine may fail to correspond at a primal level.

BUT this being a project orchestrated by the inestimable Fred Hicks, the Dinocalypse Kickstarter blew through its initial targets in, I dunno, three or four minutes. Now they’re aiming for the stars, tacking on another novel for every five grand or so raised. So for the minimum buy-in of ten bucks, you can currently pick up SIX novels, written by a variety of young people who are extremely hot right now [1]. I told you that so that I could tell you this – the next stretch goal is for pledges totalling thirty grand. If they hit that target – and they will, in another couple of days probably – the next novel down the pipeline will feature Professor Khan, the intelligent gorilla who lectures at Oxford, in an adventure on Mars.


(Ahem). If you like ridiculous high-octane pulp action with airships and jetpacks and sorceror-detectives and international dames of intrigue, consider slinging this one some bucks. The minimum pledge reward represents stunningly good value.

Shadowrun Returns by Harebrained Schemes. When I was still at uni I played the absolute hell out of tabletop Shadowrun. In summary the setting sounds pretty weak: in the near cyberpunk future ruled by megacorporations, the Mayan apocalypse arrives and heralds the return of magic to the world. A whole bunch of people find they can work spells and a whole bunch of others get turned into elves, dwarves, orcs, trolls and so on. Everyone plays edgy criminals with smart guns, stealth motorbikes, armoured trenchcoats and monofilament katanas and they all get together to steal corporate data from heavily fortified research labs and to blow the shit out of dragons or an attack chopper or whatever.

Shut up, it’s awesome. No, YOU’RE old!

Whatever, grampa. Anyhow, anarchic criminality, gun fetishism and stickin’ it to the man-who-might-be-a-dragon would seem like a good fit for a computer game translation, right? For some reason none of the attempts to date ever managed to capture the appeal of the original setting. That sense of the improverished street renegade struggling not to draw the attention of insanely powerful enemies; the wonder of ancient elf conspiracies and creepy alien shamanism; the clash of cultures, corporate and criminal, Native American and Elven, Orc Underground and (boo!spit!) Humanis Policlub. Back then I think we never quite got at the meat of what made the setting interesting (we were too busy playing it like a reskinned D&D with machine guns and hand grenades).

I’m kind of hoping that this game – a turn-based 2D interative story-telling game for PCs and tablets – will manage to find the sweet spot between immersion, in what was to me a fascinating setting, and the technoporn of smart-linking your Ares Predator to your combat reflexes and ocular implants. It’s back with at leats one of the original designers, so I have some reason to be optimistic.

And finally, Jess Nevins, an uber-historian of American pulp fiction, is compiling an Encyclopedia of Golden Age Superheroes. Okay, so this is a pretty obscure subject, but I do think this kind of cultural anthropology is both cool and valuable. Where else in this day an age are you going to find a detailed accounting of the careers of luminous creations like Captain Future, Mister Amazing  and, I dunno, Lady Zap or whoever. The point is, we’d never know how many of those three I just made up without a useful reference resource like this book and website. Unless I told you that it was two.

So that’s where my Kickstarter addiction has wandered this month. There’s obviously a wealth of stuff on there that it would be dangerous for me to explore any further given my apparent inability to suppress the urge to impulse-support neat stuff. If you seen something cool out there (or at Indiegogo or wherever else) shout it out in the comments.


[1] One of whom is a chap named Brian Clevinger, who writes a comic called Atomic Robo (art by Scott Wegener). As an aside, remind me one day to tell you how frickin’ great it is.

March 23, 2012

What’s that law of thermodynamics about momentum?

Filed under: fitter/happier,friends,Games,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 11:18 pm

I’m pretty shaky when it comes to physics, but if I understand correctly it takes more effort to move something that’s come to a complete stop than it is to maintain or speed up something already kicking along.

That’s me and writing, right there. I just stopped doing it for the better part of a couple of weeks. The usual excuses are in place – first I had a flu that knocked me out for a few days, and then we had a houseguest staying for ten days. All of the above contrived to break me from my writing routine. For once I didn’t bother to fight it. I just surrendered to the inevitable and took the lazy way out. I went and played Mass Effect 1 and 2 instead.

(I don’t regret it either. ME1 – the only game in the series I’ve yet finished – is instructively epic science fiction. Basically it’s seasons 2 to 4 of Babylon 5, but told with economy and a few less clunky monologues).

Now we may against feel the absence of the diverting and amusing company of Winston from Japan, but my writing space is once again more or less my own. So I had better get back into it. No more lame excuses.

Having not touched the novel in a coupel of weeks, I am reluctant to pick it up again. I still don’t know what I am doing with it, or how I will drive it towards a conclusion. In my ignorance I am going to stick with my plan of just writing whatever gibberish pops into my head until I’ve more or less wrapped it up, before going back to the drawing board to develop a proper outline. By ‘proper’, I mean one that actually identifies what will happen in the climax of the book.

Interestingly, the writer’s group has already begun to help out. At a recent meeting, there was a discussion about log lines, which are 25-words-or-less summaries of who the protagonist is, what they want and what’s stopping them from achieving that. I worked out a pretty good log line for my current work-in-progress novel. I think it will help to keep my redraft focused on what matters to the story, and help me to indentify ideas that might not fit so well in this particular tale. We’ll see.

(No, I’m not going to share the log line I worked out, since it kind of spoils a key plot element. It’s a behind-the-scenes kind of tool).

So while the novel stays on the backburner until I get up early tomorrow morning, I’ve tried to regain some of that dissipated momentum with various exercises of lower intensity. Last night I drafted my next Lost review (coming soon, after it gets the edit that comes of the cold-light-of-day realisation that my character analysis was 100% off-base). Tonight I wrote maybe half of a short story told entirely in tweets – that is, 140 characters or less, including names and hashtags – which will probably prove to have been a dumb idea when I revisit it. Right now it’s amusing me. And after that, I have a metric truckload of reviews I want to write.

I just have to remember to keep tapping away at that main novel project. Otherwise sooner or later it will stop and never start again.

March 2, 2012

More patronage for your consideration

Filed under: Games,the interweb she provides,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 9:11 am

For reasons I haven’t been able to quite figure out, February’s been a weird month. I haven’t been doing as much of anything as I would have liked (you name it – writing, sleeping, reading, walking, gaming, effective parenting etc) but I still feel like I’ve been busy as hell. High-octane wheel-spinning. Fervent nonproductivity. And now here’s March, and what do I have to show for it?

Meh. I’ll go into those stats in the next post. This one’s about Kickstarter. Following up from last year’s exhortation of crowdfunded patronage, here’s some more stuff on Kickstarter that I think is worthy of your attention and possibly your money, and why.


Bait Dog by Chuck Wendig – [1] I already reviewed ‘Shotgun Gravy’, the first novella starring bloodied-but-defiant teenage arse-kicker Atlanta Burns. So you know why I think that the prospect of a sequel – or better still, numerous sequels – is a good thing (and if for some reason my sweaty, shaking insistence that this is one of the great works of Western literature is not good enough for you, or if hyperbole repels you and you wish I would just shut up, go get the ebook or PDF version of SG because it’s super-cheap right now). As at the time of writing, the funding drive has hit its target, so ‘Bait Dog’ is guaranteed. But Wendig has promised to write another sequel for every three grand raised, and with a little over two weeks left to run, there’s a good chance for at least one more Atlanta Burns story after this one. This is a good thing, for scientifically-provable values of good

The next Matt Forbeck 12-for-12 trilogy – I already plugged Matt Forbeck’s crazy ambition to write a novel every month this year, funded entirely through Kickstarter patronage. The first trilogy was based on a dystopian supers setting developed for gaming. this next one, taking place in the ‘Shotguns and Sorcery’ also has an easily-grasped high concept. In this case, he has a taster out – you can read a short story called ‘Goblintown Justice’ and decide whether it’s something you might be interested in reading. I’m a fan of mashing genres – hardboiled noir + post-Tolkeinist fantasy is a perfectly cromulent blend – so even though the short story only partly worked for me I am still on board for the series.

The patronage model is really working for me. When an author whose work I  have liked in the past asks for what amounts to an advance payment for work they have yet to do, the act of pledging to support it sounds (in my head) like “I like what you do, I want you to keep doing that thing and I am prepared to give you money so that you don’t have to do something else”. The act of financial support, however nominal, feels like a more sincere expression of appreciation and thanks than you can  convey through even Twitter or blog comments or similar points of contact.

Games – Computer

Doublefine Studios Unnamed Point’n’Click Adventure – When point-and-click adventure games were at their height, among the most lauded titles in the genre’s history were Day of the Tentacle, Grim Fandango and Psychonauts. Of those I’ve only really played Tentacle (and a bit of Psycho), but that game alone convinces me that Doublefine can produce a great game. Watch lead designer Tim Schafer’s video appealing for support if you want to get a sense of the likely tone of the final product. It’s hilarious. Nearly 70,000 other people also seem to think so, since this is one of the most heavily-funded projects in Kickstarter’s history. In its first couple of days it was making about forty grand an hour in pledges. It was compelling, if ridiculous, theatre. So obviously they don’t need your money [3] and the game is certainly going to be made.

What makes the project appealing to me is that some large fraction of the proceeds will go to the production of a documentary series about the making of the game. I’ve always been an enthusiast for behind-the-scenes docos. The prospect of a production team with full access to the development process and the editing skills to avoid making that ten hours of people coding is enticing. Plus at the end of it there’s a game in a genre that doesn’t receive a lot of high-production-value love these days.

FTL -Faster than Light – A starship management game in which you play through crisis after crisis trying to keep your crew alive while they encounter asteroid fields, marauding pirates, boarding aliens and take-your-pick from a vast range of space-difficulties. On the one hand the scope is small, the graphics and sound don’t appear to be anything to write home about and the interface does not appear cutting-edge. On the other hand this is exactly the kind of game I would play the hell out of for months on end if I had the time. It’s a resource-allocation decision-making game with continuity of characters (who can die) and emergent story – so kind of like the city-management aspects of Dwarf Fortress, though hopefully without the unrelenting obfuscation of that game.

Velociraptor! Cannibalism! – A fun, bloodthirsty card game based on a loose comprehension of natural selection, in which Velociraptors consume adorable helpless prey and customise themselves with the advantageous body parts of anachronistic animals. It looks loopy and fun.

That’s all the stuff I’m following at the moment. You got any recommendations?

(Oh, I forgot to mention that the Beginnings Anthology – a locally-produced comic anthology produced by friends of Lexifab Emma and Gavin, amongst others – is due to launch next Friday night. I’m hoping to go along to collect my copy. See you there if you’re in town?)


[1] Yes, as a matter of fact, I have put all my career plans on hold specifically to shill for Chuck Wendig. Yes, of course I have a business plan [2].

[2] Okay, not so much a “business plan” as a “world-class capacity for precision-focused procrastination”. Shut up.

[3] Or mine – I haven’t actually pledged to this one yet, since I want it but I’m undecided about whether to commit to the documentary as well.

November 2, 2010

A touch more progress

Filed under: Games,now playing: anything,wordsmithery — lexifab @ 11:42 pm

Just finished another session of FreeMarket, in which our heroes the Terrorfactory MRCZ [1] – “Opening the minds of Freemers [2] to the art of terror and the terror of art” – designed and built a replicator that would turn itself into something else and ended up with a device that’s detached from reality, and were contracted by the Bowie-descended father/designer of two of them to help him devise a way to scare kids away from his performances. It’s a somewhat surreal game, but it provides some very entertaining gameplay. I highly recommend it (and if you follow that link you’ll get a slightly better sense of what the game’s about  than I have so far conveyed), especially for groups that hate prep and love improvising mad strangeness.

That will be my last roleplaying session for the forseeable future. The Wombat arrives in a few days, after which the house will go into what we shall euphemistically call “a brief transitional phase”.

Speaking of the Wombat, I have been reminded that there was a prior claim to her Lexifab handle. Which is to say that my brother Jimbo has been campaigning for us to call the baby Zod for some time now. In upholding his sound claim, I hereby note for the record that the Wombat may also be referred to herein as Zod, Zod the Wombat or the Zodbat. The Joey will remain the Joey, however. He’s no Zod.

To keep the writing tally going, I got about 400 words of text and a page or so of notes done on the *other* triffid story, so it’s creeping closer to completion. I want to get the first one done before Friday, though, so it will be my priority tomorrow. I think that I can finish it tomorrow and then do a rewrite on Thursday that will knock into finished shape (since I have no intention of selling a story with someone else’s IP in it, I’ll probably put it up here or at least link to it from here).

1 – A Multi-regional Cultural Zone (MRCZ) or “Mercy” is basically a group on FreeMarket set up to achieve a particular goal. In the case of Terrorfactory the specifics of their intent are a little unformed at this stage.

2 – Residents of FreeMarkets, in case that’s not obvious.


April 16, 2010

Torchlight wins

Filed under: Games — lexifab @ 10:22 pm

Further to my campaign of resuming blogging with greater enthusiasm, or at least something resembling regularity, I’ve been wracking my brains all day for a useful subject to blather about.

Fortunately for you, that process failed. I say fortunate, because I can’t see any good coming of a thought process that begins “What random subject do I need to blog about today”? I will mark this revelatory moment with the presumption of your gratitude.

Instead, I’m going to point at the couple of games that I’m planning to play instead of doing any writing of any kind tonight.

First of all is Torchlight, a cheap and cheerful Diablo knockoff that was on sale at Steam a few weeks ago for a paltry five bucks (which is a paltry five bucks and change in the prevailing currency climate). At that price, it’s a steal – good old fashioned dungeon bashing employing implausible weapons, armour and spells with which to summon a screenful of epilepsy-threatening visual effects. As an added bonus, your cave-exploring avatar is followed by a faithful pet who will dutifully lug your hard-won trinkets to the surface and negotiate a fair price for them with the local merchant, leaving you free to commit yourself fully to the business of bloodthirsty sparkle-mayhem.

Next up is the latest release of the completely insane Dwarf Fortress, a graphics-free fantasy city-building simulator, the complexity of whose environmental engine is dwarfed (hah!) only by the stupendously frustrating user-non-interface and the incredible richness of the narratives it is possible to glean from getting the frigging thing up and running and then watching it, well, go. (Indeed, on and on it will go, until the titular dwarf inhabitants of the titular fortress descend – as they inevitably do – into insanity and murder sprees). I want to give an example of an incident from one of the earlier games I played, involving a female guardswoman fending off a goblin invasion with a newborn infant under one arm, but while it was at time equal parts hilarious and horrifying to watch unfold, I doubt I can really recapture the context that makes it seem other than repulsive and off-putting. Instead, I will just invoke the famous tale of the doomed Fortress Boatmurdered, and leave you discern its bizarre delights for yourself. (If you do follow that link, by the way, and you can fathom what the hell they are talking about, stick with it to at least part 5 by StarkRavingMad, in which the elephants get out of hand. Alternatively you can read a quick summary).

Both of these games come with my highest recommendation (accompanied by a thick cloud of caveats). And now, to bash some orc pygmies and load up my dog with looted hauberks.

September 2, 2008

Message to my guildies

Filed under: Games — lexifab @ 1:05 pm

This year the MMO of choice has been The Lord of the Rings online: Shadows of Angmar. For a good long while, Thursday nights were devoted to the pursuit and pummelling of Sauron’s foul minions and the procurement of Phat Lewts with evocative Tolkeinist names like Kel’shalast and Gringmar’s Reaver. Lately though, the wheels have fallen off due to various impediments to one or more participants in our little Fellowship – connection issues, graphics card explosions, schedule clashes, looming doctoral thesis deadlines, what have you. The usual scheduling SNAFUs that shred regular gaming once adult responsibilities creep into one’s life.

But I just want to note to my estranged guildmates that, barring unforeseen disasters, I expect mutton-chopped hero guardian of the Mannish folk Flashman to be found hanging about in Rivendell or that ruin full of rangers (um, oh, yeah, Esteldin!), looking expectant!

July 23, 2008

The storm has a name

Filed under: Games,geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 5:53 pm

Oooh, interesting. West End Games, purveyors of that classic 90’s game that we played the absolute living shit out of back in the day – Torg – have gone belly-up and are selling off all their properties.

There’s some very intriguing discussion going on about the interwebz about buying up the rights and releasing Torg as open content (i.e. able to be used gratis by anyone, and even repackaged and resold if you can be bothered). Now, I’m not going to suddenly dream my little dreamy dreams of RPG entrepreneurship and cough up an arm and a leg for a more or less dead chunk of intellectual property no matter how many times you slap down a Drama card and bellow “Glory!” (apart from anything else, the story of the last guy who did exactly that is a cautionary tale, which led tragically and inexorably to the current sell-off) but I have to say that the idea that the game could have a bit of a revival through open source development and updating is pretty fracking thrilling to me. This was *the* great pulp game of my halcyon days, and I doubt I’m the only one from those days and that circle of friends who would say that.

The fact that it could be out there again – not to mention the other WEG gems like the D6 and Masterbook systems and the Shatterzone and Bloodshadows properties – pleases me oddly.

It’s also interesting to learn that it was Big In Japan: check out this discussion from Andy Kitkowski (who rocks for many reasons) in which he outlines what he might do with the property (which would kick arse) and scroll down to the cool anime covers from the various worldbook releases. Neat!

Ah, nostalgia! I must be a middle-aged gamer…

May 29, 2008

Game-fried but satisfied

Filed under: Games,geekery,now playing: anything — lexifab @ 11:50 pm

Completely and utterly knackered as usual – it’s just gone 10 pm and as soon as I finish typing this I’m heading to bed, which is layer upon layer of lameness, but I digress – but I need to note that this has been a really satisfying week for gaming.

On Tuesday night we finished up Emma’s Burning Freeport game, which combined the yummy and nourishing tastes of Burning Wheel and Pirates of Freeport by way of Lovecraftian cults, grotty pirates and an unusually high incidence of missing family members. The session culminated in Jimbo’s sorceror Quentin making an extrememly demonstrative use of the BW’s “magic goes wrong” rules to turn a weather wizard’s emphatic gesture into the destruction by lightning of an ancient ziggurat temple. Throw in some cougar attacks, long lost fathers and sword fights and you get a game that oscillated wildly between drama and farce. Which is just as it should be.

Wednesday night saw the first session of the new Burning Empires game we’re calling Burning Szürkület which mixes an inexplicable Hungarian flavour with some Cold War tension, religious inquisitions and of course mind-controlling alien brain-worms. First session was slow, which is to be expected as everyone finds their feet, but early signs are good that it will be intense, vicious and highly entertaining. Much to my amusement, my character in the game has the remarkable distinction of having a more boring fictional job than my real world career – he’s a planetary treasurer prosecuting war criminals for tax irregularities. Let’s hear it for escapist fantasising! Rock and roll! (Of course, there are also several characters with backgrounds as war heroes or criminals, many of whom have access to tanks, and a couple of others who appear intent on owning fighter aircraft, so it’s likely to escalate up from court cases about land management improprieties to episodes of horrific violence in short order).

In the next week we’re also going to get in some Best Friends (a game of nasty backstabbing BFFs I got Emma for her birthday). We’ll be playing lesser-known companions of the Doctor. It will be awesome.

In our little circle of local gamers, there are so many cool indie games that I want to try out with my limited gaming time – Steve is pushing the depressing game about Polish teenagers in the Warsaw uprising, while I have the one about college professors competing for tenure egged on by a malevolent ancient Sumerian cockroach-god, and everyone is talking about the “sorta like Conan meets 1001 Nights” one about oracles – and yet all I can think about is the fact that the new D&D books will be out in just one week. Any why not? I hear that rangers kick arse in this version.

I need sleep. Obviously.

PS: Oh crap, the Family Guy Star Wars Special is on TV. Oh well. No sleep for me.

February 18, 2008

Ten great things in gaming that you neither know nor care about – Parts 1-2

Filed under: 10 things in gaming,Games,geekery,the interweb she provides — lexifab @ 3:34 pm

Anyone who’s read more than three consecutive Lexifab entries will be aware that I do as much roleplay gaming as my sparse time and limited energy for seeking opportunities and organising people will allow. With as much of the rest of my time as possible, I rather enjoy reading about what’s happening in the roleplaying world, which usually means America-with-a-side-order-of-Europe-and-the-faintest-of-dashes-of-cultural-backwaters-like-Australia. This usually involves trawling the depths of internet discussion groups, design journals and commentator’s blogs. Like virtually everything on the internet, these various resources are a jumble of useful information, infantile ego clashes, sinister misinformation, groundless speculation, boundless creative joy, idiotic misunderstandings, wilful ignorance, communal goodwill and vicious snark. Ah, what would I do without them?

I am conscious that, for whatever reason, not everyone has the time, patience or remotest interest in replicating my gaming research habits. And to be sure, to delve into discussion groups – on subjects such as “Stupidest person you ever gamed with” and “Why halflings are more offensive to Ukrainian gamers than gnomes” or arguments about whether the ultimate face on a d10s should read ‘0’, a ’10’ or a ’00’ on one face – is to risk rapid and traumatic loss of sanity. However, there are a few pearls out there at the moment that are worth dredging to the surface and flogging to the tourists, so to save you some trouble to which you almost certainly never conceived of going, I hereby present a handy list of the New Cool on Gaming, after the cut. If you don’t care, my next entry will no doubt be about babies or cricket. (Warning: this really is seriously long)

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