Tuesday, September 19, 2017

What's Happening?

Whew! I've been gaming a lot.

A lot!

Well, a lot for me in comparison to last year at least. 

Most of it has been very fun too, and really, what more can you ask for?

At this point I figured I should update you all on what I'm doing, if for no other reason than to share the joy, and get some new content up on this blog for cripes sake! It's September 18th, and this is only my third post! Sheesh! 

Have no fear citizens, a meatier post is forthcoming. 

Most of the games I'm in, or running are bi-weekly, or monthly. Only the online Google Hangouts Kapow! Group (the one I am running DC Adventures for right now) meets every week.

Wait. That isn't exactly true. I meet with Dan's Group every Friday night (roughly), but we alternate games. 

Following our DC Adventures game, the Google Hangouts Kapow! Group will be doing a DC/Marvel Crossover, and then its back to our Kapow! campaign. 

Crisis on Earth G+

We've had three sessions so far, and everyone seems to be having a great time. I can tell you that I am. This mini-campaign is just my personal love letter to the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths, Silver/Bronze Age continuity of DC Comics. Getting the chance to do this is awesome, but knowing that my players appreciate the work I've put in is really icing on the cake. 

This week will feature the fourth part of our story, and a trip to World War II, and Golden Age DC! In addition to DC's WW II 'War Comics' heroes, such as Sgt. Rock, and Easy Company, G.I. Robot, and Jeb Stuart and The Haunted Tank, we'll get a guest appearance by the Earth-2 Justice Society of America! Woohoo! I can't wait.

Star Trek Adventures: Excalibur

Our new Google Hangouts group completed the adventure 'The Rescue at Xerxes IV' last week, and I must admit, it was really good. A fairly straight forward scenario, it was nonetheless an excellent introduction to the new Star Trek Adventures RPG. 

We are going forward with a mini-campaign, which may last no more than one additional adventure scenario, or it may continue onward. Lots of enthusiasm, but no pressure to commit to a tightly scheduled, long term game. 

We run this every two weeks, or so at a terribly late hour on Saturdays. 

The idea of using the Star Trek Adventures game to run a campaign based on 'The Orville' (which I touched on in my previous post) is one that keeps popping into my head. I am currently trying to rework the character sheets, and obtain as much information about the setting as possible, which isn't easy considering the series has only had two episodes at this point. 

My Hero Academia: American Ultra!

The Students of UA High School's Class 1-A
My Hero Academia

We've had three sessions of American Ultra, my homebrewed spin-off campaign based on the popular Japanese Anime/Manga series, My Hero Academia. 

So far it's been really great, with moments of WOW. It's some of the best GMing I've done in a long time, and I have the perfect group of players for it. Everyone, and everything just connects in a way that makes the game a pleasure to run, and the players have told me they love it.

The first two sessions had a nice mix of action, intrigue, humor, and world building. The third was much more focused on character development/role playing, investigation, and was a tad less funny, and action packed, but the players/PCs uncovered a bombshell reveal that had the team 'Holy Crap!'-ing all the way to the end. 

I'm pretty proud of that.

Next session is coming soon.

New Group - New Campaign - Villains & Vigilantes?

We played a super fun game of that Superhero RPG classic, Villains & Vigilantes last week, and are considering turning it into a campaign.

When I say we, I really mean myself, and two of my buddies. The third participant from our first foray won't be able to make it on a regular basis. Actually, it will be a rare occurrence if he can make it, which is too bad. He was a great guy to game with, and really rounded out the team.

While we had a great time, and I was flooded with nostalgia over the use of the very first Supers game I'd ever run, the loss of the third player and the fact that I am already running two Superhero campaigns has me wondering if this is a missed opportunity to run something else, like a Sci-Fi/Space Adventure game. 

More about this in my next post.

This group will also probably meet every two weeks, but I'm kind of running out of free days, and nights, so we'll play it by ear. 

Dan's Group - Alternating Games

Dan's Group meets at my friend Dan's house, and therefore we creatively refer to our entourage as 'Dan's Group'. Currently, Dan isn't GMing our Friday night games. That task is usually handled by my friend Alex, who is running a home-modified Powered by the Apocalypse 'Harry Potter/Hogwarts' game, or myself running...whatever. 

Whatever is a catch-all for the various games I start up with the group, run for a couple to several sessions, and then try to figure out what else might work better. Over the past year, or so this has included Ars Magica 3rd Ed., Champions 4th Ed., Marvel Heroic, Star Trek (LUG Version), and a number of others.

The problem is that games with the group never feel quite right to me. While we all get along and share similar interests, our playing and GMing styles are quite different, and even clash on occasion. The group is doing great with Alex's game, but every game I try feels either underwhelming, or annoying. 

I've yet to figure out what game works best with this assembly of gamers. 

I will keep trying of course. 

That's all for now. I have another post coming up very soon on some game ideas that have come to me of late. With any luck I can get this next entry out tonight.

Until then,

Barking Alien

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

We Need No Longer Fear The Banana

September is shaping up to be a busy month, and it's just getting started.

In addition to the increase in business due to the change in seasons, I am also experiencing an unexpected increase in the number of gaming sessions I have been, and continue to be, involved with.

This is good, though the combination of real life and hobby activities to this degree can be exhausting. 

The reason for my post today is related to a game I recently played that, honestly, I wasn't sure I was going to enjoy, a TV show I thought I would, and did, and the odd relationship between the two.

Well over a year ago, Modiphius Entertainment announced they were releasing a brand new, official, Star Trek Role Playing Game, to be entitled Star Trek Adventures

I was extremely excited for a number of reasons, not the least of which was my love of gaming in the Star Trek universe. If that weren't enough, I found out a friend of mine had gotten a job with Modiphius, and a few of the people who'd worked on previous Star Trek RPGs would also be involved. 

Before long I was signed up for the play test, and in conversations with some of the fellows in charge of Star Trek Adventures about submitting some adventure proposals, or supplemental material. 

Then I read the rules.

I was crushed. I did not like the game. To be more precise, I didn't really understand how it worked. I got the basic mechanics, but there was all this other stuff that seemed confusing and unnecessary bolted on. I found some of the 'gamespeak' terminology hard to recall, and came away feeling like I would not be able to run it. 

Overall, I was very disappointed, and kept up with the product only because it is Star Trek-related.

Time has passed since then, and the game has been released. It is quite successful in fact, and the final product (which I have yet to purchase as of this writing) looks very slick, and impressive.

My friend Keith, the regular GM for our Google Hangouts group, had similar feelings about the game. As is often the case with Keith (much to our group's benefit), he can't give up on a when game he feels strongly that he should like it. 

A few weeks to a month ago, Keith revealed that he had a really cool idea for a Star Trek scenario, and wanted very much to run said scenario using the Star Trek Adventures game. I thought it was a great opportunity to play it as a player, and perhaps learn how it worked from someone who understood it's bells and whistles better than I.

We ended up making characters one week, and playing it the next. There were three players - Mark (as a Human Science Officer named Lt. Commander Sprigg), a really nice fellow from Germany named Frank (as Human Engineer Lt. Commander Bush), and myself as First Officer/XO (an Andorian Command officer with a Security background named Commander Ch'Halor Thel). 

While our ship was set to be the Constitution Class USS Excalibur (repaired following severe damage and the loss of all hands during a battle with the M-5 Computer equipped USS Enterprise in 'The Ultimate Computer'), we began with an adventure from the published materials in which our group crashes in a shuttle on route to rendezvousing with our vessel. 


From there we (the players and GM alike) had a rollicking good time, as we proceeded to respond to a distress call from a Starfleet Research Outpost, encountered what may have been devolved scientists, and dealt with the planet's treacherously rocky terrain. The combination of mystery solving, fighting opponents, and navigating through the environment gave as all a good idea of how the rules functioned. 

Combat was interesting, with some cool options once we figured out exactly what they were, and how they worked. This was a good example of how the wording in the book was a tad unclear. Thankfully Frank (who was more well versed with the Modiphius 2D20 System than the rest of us) was able to clarify the mechanics. Once I understood it, I liked it a lot.  

Frank was a great addition to the group, partially for his greater handle on the rules, and partly for his role-playing, and characterization style, which was simultaneously light-hearted yet he maintained the seriousness of the situations we were in. His portrayal of Lt. Commander Bush was often humorous, but never goofy, or over-the-top in a way that broke immersion. 

This got me to thinking...although I am unlikely (at the point as least) to use Star Trek Adventures to run Star Trek over my preferred LUG/ICON System version, I might use it to run another television project focused on adventure, and space exploration.


I am waiting until at least the first three episodes air before I dedicate a thorough post to the show, but I did see the premiere of The Orville, and yes, I did like it. I liked it a lot. It was fun, it had some good characters, neat ideas, and awesome design work (you gotta love that ship!). 

Most importantly (to me at least), it got me thinking about running an Orville-style game. A Star Trek game with the setting safeties off, and an attitude more in line with...with...well, with the way most people play Star Trek-style SF games. Star Trek Adventures unique blend of setting appropriate abilities, but occasional 'it-works-like-the-TV-show' mechanics seem like a perfect fit for this type of game.

I am curious to investigate both the Star Trek Adventures game, and The Orville series a bit more. Who knows where this may lead?

Engage Quantum Drive!

Barking Alien

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Fall of Superheroes

And by 'Fall' I mean Autumn of course!

Yes my fellow caped and cowled costumed crusaders, it's that time of the year again - The kids are back to school, the leaves are changing colors, and the Pumpkin Spice Lattes flow like river rapids through the streets of every major American city. 

As Summer departs, and the harvest season blows in, I find myself running a number of Superhero RPGs. More accurately, I am running Superhero games, and little else. All things considered, I'm enjoying it, and pretty happy with the results so far.

I am currently running:

My Hero Academia: American Ultra!

Our third session of this campaign is coming up this Sunday (September 10th). 

So far the game has been a delight, with a perfect mix of action, intrigue, humor, and characterization. The world building has also been a ton of fun, as I adapt ideas from the Manga, and Anime, but twist a few to show the differences between how things work in Japan, and how they work in the United States. 

This next episode with feature school orientation, meeting their homeroom teacher, and the first day of classes. I can hardly wait!

I really need to do some session recaps on here soon. 

DC Adventures - Crisis on Earth-G+!

We just had the second session of my part of our Ultra Mega Summer Super Crossover Event, which is obviously bleeding into the next season. Summer was not enough to contain it! 

Our story places us in 1984, in the pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths DC Comic universe, where the inevitable wave of anti-matter from Crisis is sure to eliminate our reality. However, a plot by a cabal of supervillains may actually have given the heroes, with the help of the New God Metron, a way to save existence!

Travelling through time, and space, the heroes of the Justice League of America, are attempting to gather various items of power from throughout DC history, and use them to repair the Worlogog, a map and transportation device that might keep Earth G+ around post-Crisis. 

One can only hope. 

Villains and Vigilantes - Unnamed Superhero Campaign

I have been tasked with the creation of a new Superhero game by two good friends of mine, and I have gladly excepted the challenge. 

I am contemplating using the new Villains and Vigilantes 3.0, or a hybrid of 3E, and 2E. A friend suggested the 'Revised Second Edition' maybe a good option. 

I have a lot of nostalgia for that game, and I created a universe for it that I'd love to revisit and update. I have a pretty clear idea of how it would work, but I need to get comfortable with a version of the rules before I go about really setting it down on paper.

OK, that's what's up at the moment. More to come very soon.

I'm really eager to run a few other things, namely Star Wars and Star Trek, but I have not idea when I'll find the time. 

Barking Alien

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Red Skies and Floppy Disks

As my 40th Gaming Anniversary month draws to close, I am kind of amazed at how much of it I spent talking about, and playing Superhero RPGs.

It shouldn't come as a surprise really, for as I've said, Supers is what got me into RPGs in the first place (in a manner of speaking). It's just that, with a name like 'Barking Alien' you'd think there would be a bit more Science Fiction in my celebration of the 40 year mark. 

Furthermore, when I look at the general gaming landscape, how things like Dungeons & Dragons, Pathfinder, and Numenera seem to dominate the market by leaps and bounds, I am once more reminded that is the bulk of the lot, the unifying factor, the common denominator...but it just ain't me.

This past Wednesday evening I ran the first session of my half of our Google Hangouts group's Ultra Mega Summer Super Crossover Event, DC Adventures - Crisis on Earth G+!

The first part, a Marvel Heroic mini-series, ended with a bit less bang, and a bit more whimper than we all would have liked. The Marvel Heroic system didn't turn out to be to most of the players' liking. Even, or perhaps especially the GM found the game cumbersome, and tedious, getting in the way of telling a Superhero comic book story instead of supporting, and enhancing it. 

I was personally a tad disappointed that we didn't get to 'see', or experience very much of the Marvel Universe. If I don't normally play in the Marvel milieu, and I get to for a limited run, I want the opportunity to encounter uniquely Marvel things. I wanted to feel why the atmosphere of Marvel is special - why it's not DC, or our homegrown Kapow! game. 

I tried really hard to make that a part of our DC excursion. To facilitate that, I made some tough choices. Not tough for me to make, but choices that I knew might not initially sit well with all the players. For example, I limited which characters they could choose to play, but I didn't do it arbitrarily. Rather, I did it to make the whole thing work. 

Here's what we ended up with...

The Silver/Bronze Age Justice League of America
Characters by Jose Garcia Lopez
Background by Me.

First, I told all the players that the story was set in the DC Universe in the year 1984.

Yep. 1984. The Bronze Age. Pre-Crisis on Infinite Earths. 

I opened the game saying:

"The year is 1984. 
Ronald Reagan is the President of the United States.
Footloose, and Beverly Hill Cops are raking it in at the Box Office.
Dynasty, and Family Ties top the Nielsen Ratings. 
Just like the rest of Earth G+, Bonnie Tylor is Holding Out for a Hero."

That right there is the key to everything. 

Any character created by DC during, or after Crisis on Infinite Earths does not exist in our game. If the character was acquired by DC Comics, and first appears in a DC book during, or after COIE, such as Blue Beetle, Captain Atom, and the other Charlton Characters, they too are not available as PCs. 

The 'Satellite Era' Justice League of America, the Teen Titans (Dick Grayson is Robin, not Nightwing), the Doom Patrol (original), the Metal Men, and a number of independent heroes are all cleared for use. 

The group eventually chose a very classic Justice League line up:

The Flash/Barry Allen (played by Keith)
Green Arrow/Oliver Queen (played by Stephen)
Green Lantern/Hal Jordan (played by Tim)
Hawkgirl/Sheira Hall (played by Mark)
Superman/Clark Kent - Kal-El (played by Carl)
Wonder Woman/Princess Diana - Diana Prince (played by Melinda)

A day, or two before the session, I posted the following image, and caption to our Event page...

'Earth Time - August 29th, 1984, 12:00 PM EST - On the outskirts of Space Sector 2813, bordering the edge of 2814, Green Lantern Honor Guard Member, Tomar-Re, detects a disturbance in the Space-Time Continuum.'

The following morning I posted this...

'A series of strange events, some clearly villainous, some merely suspicious, have kept the Justice League of America rather busy over the past 48 hours.

Flash, and Green Arrow - In the wee hours of yesterday morning, Mark Mardon, AKA Weather Wizard, somehow escaped from the Minnesota State Correctional Facility that held him. Several hours later, a sudden, terrible storm blew over Star City just as a plane extraditing Count Werner Vertaygho of Vlatava, AKA Count Vertigo, had taken off. The aircraft, as well as Count Vertigo himself, have disappeared. 

Green Lantern, and Superman - Our heroes have been on the trail of Rudy Jones, AKA The Parasite, for at least twelve hours now. Jones recently escaped from a S.T.A.R. Labs facility attempting to cure his condition. As the heroes neared his last known whereabouts, the Metropolis suburb of Midvale, reports came through that a 'yellow-gold giant with purple clothes' had been sighted in the Delaware Water Gap National Park, about 80 miles Northeast of the city. 

Hawkgirl, and Wonder Woman - Yesterday evening, Helen Alexandros, AKA The Silver Swan, stole an ancient, Greek salpinx from the Midway City Museum (The Midway Museum of Ancient History). She was aided by a mysterious man in a blue cloak. The two individuals vanished right before the eyes of stunned security guards. Early this morning, a man wearing a cloak of the same description was spotted in the Suicide Slum area of Metropolis by Ace O' Clubs owner Bibbo Bibbowski.'

A few hours later, I posted this last, additional entry:

'Update: Additional sightings of the Parasite, Silver Swan, the Blue Cloaked Man, and the mysterious Yellow-Gold Giant have been confirmed by various sources, and complied by J'onn Jonzz, The Martian Manhunter, back on the JLA Satellite. According to his findings, they are all headed for central Metropolis, likely the borough of New Troy.

Weather patterns there have begun to change rapidly, and a particularly intense lightning storm seems to be forming. Very likely, this is a sign that Weather Wizard, and perhaps Count Vertigo, are on their way as well.

Be ready Justice Leaguers!'

The important things to note here are that I tried to make sure I had certain vital (IMO) components established:

  • Familiar super villains from the rogues galleries of the chosen PCs.
  • A few mystery villains who could not be confirmed to add intrigue.
  • Mention of key DC Comics locations related to the PCs.
  • Mention of key NPC heroes, or supporting cast members. 
  • Everything culminating in the most well known location mentioned: Metropolis.

Also, I established that the Martian Manhunter was there to help in an advisory capacity. This enabled me to give exposition, helpful hints, and the like with an in-game voice (J'onn's) instead of a GM/Narrator voice.

Remember this is all before the first session. This is the prologue. It's...OMG...it's...

Pre-Crisis on Earth G+!

More to come...

Barking Alien

RPGaDay Challenge 2017 - Bonus Round!

The RPGaDay Challenge for 2017 is over! 


Here are some Alternate Questions I found on the blog Casting Shadows that I'm going to answer in short response form as Bonus Questions. Why? Because Gaming that's why!

Alternate Questions
  • What do you look for in a review of an RPG?

In a review? I look for someone to have read, and/or played the game who can tell me how it works, and why they think it's good, or bad. Isn't that what a review is?

  • Campaigns: do you prefer set-length or open-ended play?

I definitely prefer open-ended play. Long term because it ends up long term. 

  • How long does it take to learn to get the most out of a game?

I don't understand this question. You get what you put into it. If you're asking how long it takes to master the rules lawyer/power game bs that comes with a game like Pathfinder, it takes me exactly 0 seconds. I don't bother.

  • What do you want out of an RPG experience?

Excitement, laughs, real emotion, and a story that you'll tell each other, and other gamers you meet years done the line. 

  • What gives an RPG its ‘replay value’?

Again, I don't understand. If you can't play a game more than one time, it's not a good game. It might not even be a real RPG. 

  • What part or parts of a session do you look forward to the most?

As GM, the world building, and the players/PCs uncovering the elements I put there in order to build an interesting setting.

As a player, I like discovering those world building bits, and bobs, uncovering secrets to the universe the GM has developed. 

  • What makes an RPG book special in your eyes?

This is an interesting question. What makes it special? Wow. This is very hard to pin down. It's a combination of things. How it looks, the art, how easy it is to read, how cool the examples of play are...some many things. 

  • What would appear on an RPG book cover that would make you want to play it?

A Japanese Anime/Manga Giant Robot.

Heh, kidding (sort of). It isn't what's on the cover, it's what the game is about, and how well it handles that subject matter.

  • How far from human do you enjoy getting the chance to be in an RPG?

LOL. You are talking to the guy whose motto in high school was, 'If the game has something other than Humans, I will be something other than Human.' Jot me down for 'Real Weirdie'.

  • What is the oldest game you have played, or still play?

Classic Traveller I would think.

  • Describe a moment of wonder that arose in play.

So many. I wouldn't know where to start, or rather it would take a whole post to describe anyone of them. I am trying to give short response answers here. Please go back and read various entries on my blog. There are some real doozies. 

  • Have you learned a skill because of events in a game? Tell us about it!

I am awful at math. I always have been, and probably always will be. It's almost a learning disability. Not quite, but my mind just doesn't grasp numbers and their relationships very well. The one area of mathematics I can understand is probability and percentages. That is solely due to playing RPGs.

  • What section do you read first when you get a new game? Why?

Character Creation. I always want to know how to build a character. Oddly, as a GM, Character Creation is not my favorite part of the gaming experience. Often, I actually find it tedious. That's why I look at Character Creation first. If I find Character Creation enjoyable, it is very likely that I will like the rest of the game. 

  • Suggest an RPG with engaging solo play.

Um...er...um...huh? Do you mean One Player, and One GM, or no GM? Why would you do that? There are video games for that. Go play Mass Effect. Better yet, play World of Warcraft or something. That way you can play alone, but with people. 

  • Which RPGs facilitate running very large groups enjoyably?

I may be biased here, as I prefer running for fairly large groups. I find many games that people view as cumbersome for large groups to be pretty easy to run. I've run FASA Star Trek for 7 or 8 players at once, WEG Star Wars for 7 or 8 on average, and a Mutants & Masterminds campaign with between 7 and 11 people per session. Any game with rules that a both simple, and straightforward work well with large groups. 

The RPGaDay Challenge for 2017 is over! 

Well that's that! Challenge excepted and overcome! Feeling pretty good about myself. 

Until next post...

Barking Alien