Friday, January 11, 2019

Orbital Drop

Before I get to the posts I really want to discuss, I feel it might behoove me to update everybody on my current 'State of Gaming' at this time.

Self-indulgent Info Dump Away!

Illustration based on the work of Calum Alexander Watt

I ended 2018 and began 2019 with two separate one-shot games with different groups.

On December 30th I ran The Orville Adventures, a 6 hour session of Modiphius Entertainment's Star Trek Adventures using the setting of the Sci-Fi Dramedy TV Series, The Orville. We had four players and myself and it was an absolute blast. A ton of fun. 

On January 1st I ran two my girlfriend and my good buddy Dave through a fairly simple D&D scenario using a homebrewed version of the game set in my own universe of Aerth. It was OK. Kind of meh. We were all tired and not really focused on the game. It happens.


At present I am running two ongoing campaigns, as well as playing in two others. I have a third ongoing campaign in pre-production but more about that some other time. 


The first campaign I am running is the continuation of our ongoing Star Trek Adventures campaign, Star Trek: Prosperity, now in it's fourth year!

The campaign features four players, all males, with bi-weekly sessions lasting about 4-5 hours.

Season 4 will see the return of all four regular players as well as (hopefully) periodic guest-stars just like the previous three years of the campaign. This Season will go back to more episodic adventures (unlike last Season's overarching meta-plot) with a greater focus on the characters, their relationships, and their backgrounds. Something which was last touched upon in the second half of Season 2.

The second campaign I'm gamemastering is the continued Champions 4th Edition game, Champions: Revival. The game has only had about 8 or 9 sessions at this point but it is coming along nicely. 

The game is run monthly, in 6-8 hour sessions, with five players, four male and one female. At least four of the five show for every sessions but one player or another has missed a session or two due to scheduling conflicts. 

Utilizing the setting created by my friend William for his epic, ten year long campaign in which I was a participant in high school, this series features an alternate timeline from previous campaigns I've run in the same universe.

The team is interesting and their approach to 'superheroing' is kind of atypical. If the average Superhero team is akin to Police, these guys are like a SWAT Team or even Seal Team Six. Within a very short period of time they've earned the respect of PRIMUS (a SHIELD type organization that traditionally doesn't like Supers) but rubbed some of the mainstream heroes the wrong way. 

The threat level of their opponents is rising rapidly as well, so I am really looking forward to seeing how they handle tougher adversaries who have it in for them. 


As for the games I am in as a player...

Our Hogwarts/The Wizarding World of Harry Potter campaign is going strong and that too is in its fourth year. We are already 4th years in the game I believe and I am curious to see where we're going from here.

I really like my character, Ravenclaw student Francis 'Frank' Pellgrove. In fact, I like him more than I expected to. I haven't enjoyed playing a PC this much in a very long time. I am looking forward to seeing where his life and adventures take him, though I'm really in no hurry to see him graduate and leave Hogwarts.

This campaign is run bi-weekly (alternating with our Star Trek: Prosperity game), with 4-5 hours sessions. There are four players including myself with said players being the same group as the Star Trek Adventures campaign. The Hogwarts game is run by my friend Alex using a homebrewed system inspired by Apocalypse World. 

I am also in a Wild West campaign run weekly using a modified version of Savage Worlds. We've had about half a dozen or so sessions so far, each lasting roughly 4-5 hours. There are five males players in this game, though it is rare that all five are present for every session. I have been in every episode (I believe) as has my friend Alex who plays my character's nephew. 

The game is, at it's heart, the story of the small boom town of Dunton, Colorado during the Silver Rush of the late 1870s. At the same time, because the two most consistent players are my friend Alex and myself, it's really become the tale of our characters and their enterprise of 'THATCHER and Thatcher'.

Once again I have a character I quite like, 'Professor' Milford J. Thatcher. I love the way he and his nephew 'Buddy' banter and interact. The GM is doing a bang up job at least partially thanks to becoming completely obsessed with classic Western TV shows and films over the past few months. 


That's where I'm at right now. I have plans to run another campaign to begin very soon but I need to lock down a few things first and finish the write ups for some of the games elements. More on this as it progresses. 

I started this post nearly a week ago and it's FINALLY finished. Geez. 

Now I can get to other things such as my current love...wait, let me just check out the latest episode and then I can talk about it. 

We'll chat again soon.

Barking Alien

Thursday, January 3, 2019



Coming in Hot!

Atmospheric Re-entry Kit for Traveller
By the ever-amazing David Deitrick

Happy New Year Everybody! Adam here to let you know that Barkley and I are back in action and raring to go! 

Also, BARKING ALIEN first debuted on February 23rd, 2009 so this coming February will mark 10 years that I've been doing this blog. TEN FREAKIN' YEARS! Woohoo! We should throw a party or something.

It's been a very interesting and enlightening holiday season, giving me time to look at my favorite hobby from a fresh perspective. In truth it isn't so much that I came up with some startling epiphany or grand realization. More so that I could see more clearly what had been staring me in the face for a long time and yet I kept second guessing it and myself. 

For some time now (many years actually) I haven't felt like I've been gaming to my full potential. 

When I was in High School, College, even for many years after, I was considered one of the best Gamemasters in my circles. I discovered, thanks to a meeting with an old acquaintance some time ago, that I was even considered among the best by those who knew me and/or the players in my games even if they themselves weren't actually in any of the games I ran. 

That last bit, it moved me. I'm being serious. As a guy who has suffered from anxiety and low self-esteem issues for most of his life it was like Godzilla being struck by lightning, charging me up with the knowledge that I really was good at something. Not just good, Great!

Alas, I feel a bit like my powers have faded over the past ten years. I know this isn't the first time I've said that here but I think I found part of the reason.

My oldest, most engaging group disbanded because several of the personal relationships in it broke up, not the least of which was that between my [now] ex-wife and myself. Ever since then, instead of running and playing games 100% My Way and the way the old group liked it, I've been trying to figure out how to play the way the new people I met preferred. I've been trying to adapt to others' play styles so I could make new friends and find new games. 

Now there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach. I am not going to lament doing this specific thing as I have made some great, close friends, ran some awesome games, and had a lot of fun along the way. 

At the same time, I am soon to be fifty years old. 50. I...*faint* Sorry, what...where was I? Oh yes, that also means I have been gaming for 42 years. Wow. I think I have earned the right to do what I want to do and game the way that makes sense to me.

True, I may find it harder to find and keep players. By being more me and less flexible I am shrinking my potential audience. My default style is not the approach the average gamer is used to. I am not a fan of D&D or Pathfinder, the games with the most wide-spread appeal and easiest accessibility. 

Still and all, if I can't make myself happy, why and I doing this, right?

It is my sincerest hope that much like my groups of old, my players of today and beyond will appreciate my games and become fans of my GMing because I will have become a fan of my GMing once more. If I am sincere and passionate about it, that will show and resonate. 

Here's to a New Year and a return to doing things I love doing. I hope you do the same. 

Barking Alien

Monday, December 17, 2018

The Sound of Silence

November was something of a bust.

December is no better.

I am not done blogging, not by a long shot, but I have no interest in doing so at this time. 

This may come as a shock to you all - as it does to me - but I really don't have anything to say.

I am currently running two campaigns that are going along quite well, neither being particularly difficult for me to run. I have few problems to ruminate over, advice to give, or interesting insights into the inner workings of the games or their participants. These games just work, so it feels as if there is very little to address about them. That's a bit disappointing in a way but there you have it. 

I'm also in at least two good games as a player. I suppose I could address the differences between the style of the GMs of those campaigns and my own...but I just don't feel inspired to do so. Again, I have no great insight just now. I may give them a more thorough analysis later.

There are definitely other things of interest to me that I could talk about - Star Wars Resistance, Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse, CW/DC's Elseworlds, the final season of Voltron: The Legendary Defender - but I am simply not motivated to do so at this time. 


I guess I'll see you all in the new year. 

Hopefully with something more interesting to say.

Happy Holidays and a Joyous New Year Everyone!

Barking Alien

Monday, November 12, 2018

Hurts Like Heaven

I promised myself that I would remain positive this November and that all my posts would be about things I like. This is definitely about someone I like and someone who created things I like, so that will have to do. 

For you see, what I am about to tell you makes me sad and I do not like it one bit. 

Today I lost yet another of my heroes. 

On this day, the 12th of November, 2018, the world said farewell to Stanley Martin Lieber, better known as Stan Lee. 

Stan Lee - born in New York City, NY - was a creator, writer, editor, publisher and a character as large and as colorful as any he had a part in inventing. Collaborating with such artistic geniuses as Jack Kirby and Steve Ditko, Stan helped to create Superhero Comic Book characters known the world over - Spiderman, The Hulk, Thor, Doctor Strange, The X-Men, and many, many more.

Thanks to the popularity of feature films produced by Marvel Entertainment/Disney over the past 10 years, his characters are household names from Hastings to Hong Kong and Toledo to Tokyo. 

More so than any other single individual in the history of comic books, Stan Lee was the name and face most closely associated with that medium. He was a master of promotion and branding before either were really a thing in the modern sense. One could say one of the greatest characters he every created was Stan Lee himself.  At the same time he wasn't just interested in his own image and legacy. He was an advocate for the Comic Book and an unequivocally passionate individual in that regard.

He wasn't perfect. He was Human. Yet there are clearly those who could take lessons from him on how to be a Human being. In 1968, Stan used his comics as a forum to fight bigotry and published the following editorial:

I only met Stan in person once. I was a kid. We didn't really exchange words. I just stared in silent awe. There he was, a living legend, within a few feet of normal, teenage me. I wish I had said something, anything, to let him know how he'd inspired me. 

Well Stan, you did. You inspired me enough to go to art school, to make attempts to break into comics, to write and draw and keep the dream of 'With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility' alive. 

Farewell True Believer. 



Barking Alien

That's The Way, Uh-Huh Uh-Huh, I Like It

I like IP based games. 

It's true that this may not be universally the case as I won't play a game just because it's an IP. I have to like the IP to be certain. 

That said, I find that given the choice between DC Adventures or Mutants and Masterminds 3rd Edition - essentially the same game - I'd much rather run a DC Adventures campaign. I'd pick Star Trek or Star Wars over Traveller and I freakin' love Traveller. I miss running Ghostbusters and I've been getting ideas for a Men In Black game lately. 

I really enjoy running games based on entertainment franchises that I like. It might seem lazy to some or less creative than a game set solely in a setting of one's own design but I don't feel that way. Better yet I don't really care what those of that opinion think. 


Well for starters, I've had incredible success with IP based campaigns over the years. Some of the best games I've ever run have been set in someone else's universe. As I have noted in the past, I became sort of famous in my local gaming circles in High School and College as the 'King of Licensed RPGs'.

I always received interest if I said I was thinking of running Villains and Vigilantes, Mekton, or Ars Magica but I'd have scores of players chomping at the bit to be part of my Marvel, Mobile Suit Gundam, or Record of the Lodoss War games. 

I have discussed IP gaming numerous times in the past from both a general standpoint and in relation to specific licenses. What I want to add here is that I really like the freedom they give me. 

"Huh?", I hear you say. "Freedom? But isn't doesn't running a game in a known IP setting tie your hands considerably? You can't go against canon without someone freaking out!"

That is certainly a distinct possibility but let's focus on the freedom part shall we?

When creating a setting from scratch there are several things to consider, among them being what particular elements do and don't exist in your universe, how the people in the universe interact with and feel about those elements, and what is the function of the Player Characters in said setting. 

In IP settings, if the players are at least generally familiar with the IP, those questions are already answered. I don't have to explain what a Droid is to a Star Wars player, nor do I have to get into all the different ways Droids are treated. 

Likewise, I don't have to tell a Star Trek player that there aren't any Droids on their Starfleet Vessel. Star Trek doesn't have Droids. We all know this. 

When the rules are known and generally agreed upon by all involved, I as the GM don't have to worry about them. I can direct my energies towards creating new material - new stories, characters, locations, and other such components. It's quite liberating actually. You don't need to reinvent the wheel if you and a good size group of friends have the same favorite wheel you can take out whenever you feel like it and go for a spin. 

I could go on and on but I have other subjects I want to get to. I am really interested in running either an old favorite IP game or an IP I haven't touched in a while. Perhaps one I like but haven't yet tackled at all? Time will tell. 

Barking Alien