Tuesday, October 18, 2016


Followers of this blog (you know what you are...) may remember that I've been wanting to do a 'Campaigns I Have Known' series focusing on my (limited) time on the other side of the table. Unfortunately, things have been kind of busy in my Real LifeTM, and as such my blog has fallen by the wayside a bit. Campaigns I Have Played is therefore long overdue. 

Since I'm preparing for a new Star Wars campaign, let's start with a campaign set in that long ago, far, far Away galaxy.

I've only been in one long term Star Wars Role-Playing Game. 

Star Wars is, as I've noted in the past, one of my all time favorite games. Not only because I'm an immense fan of the Star Wars universe, but also because the West End Games D6 RPG is a work of gaming genius. Star Wars D6 was my first dice-pool game (I believe). The game also took a really interesting approach to telling the potential player, and GM how the game was to be played. The rulebook suggested a fast paced, free-wheeling approach, heavy on pizzazz and light on a slave-like devotion to the rules they were giving you.

It was awesome, and eye-opening and did quite a lot to influence my outlook on how RPGs could be run, and played. For me it hits the rarely achieved sweet spot between genre atmosphere, and crunch.

As noted in the Campaigns I Have Known entry on my very first Star Wars campaign, I was running Star Wars as an RPG setting long before West End came out with theirs. I usually used a homebrewed / kitbashed mess of a thing that worked largely because we wanted it to. 

When West End Games put out their excellent Star Wars game in 1987, the flood gates had opened, and now anybody, and everybody could run Star Wars to their hearts content. Yet no one did. No one in my circles wanted to run it, though many wanted to play it. It was up to me...as always.

A sad, sad thing that I have experienced throughout most of my 39 years in the hobby is that for every hundred games on the market, there are ninety-nine GMs running D&D.

Anyway, at some point in 1989, while I was working at the Forbidden Planet and attending Pratt Institute (my freshman year of college) a friend decided he really wanted to run Star Wars after hearing about it from me. This was a very surreal time for me, as I was big into the game, had friends who either worked at West End Games, or had relatives working at West End Games, and had family friends who lived only a few blocks from the company's offices on New York's Upper West Side. 

As I have mentioned before, I was the go-to guy for any game that wasn't D&D, and to hear that someone else wanted to run Star Wars just got me so excited I overcome my usual distaste for playing, and came up with a character in a flash. The GM, spurred on by my enthusiasm, had a group assembled in short order, and we played after classes a couple times a week (see below). The game eventually evaporated when summer came, and we all went our separate ways for the off months. 


Campaigns I Have Known Played
Proudly Presents...


Welcome to the Laughing Gundark Tavern
Drinks so strong they'll pull your ears off.


The campaign was not actually called that. To be honest, I don't think it had a proper title. I simply remember it under this title because the term 'scum' came up at lot during the game.

You may recall from the original trilogy, it came up fairly often there as well. Mos Eisley was a 'Wretched hive of scum, and villainy' according to Ben Kenobi. Bounty Hunters were referred to as the kind of scum the Empire didn't need by an Imperial Officer. Of course the Rebels were Rebel Scum. All these references played into the PCs in this campaign.

System: Star Wars, The Role Playing Game by West End Games. 1st Edition - Some house rules.

Most of the house rules involved an expansion of the skills that ended up almost identical to Second Edition. 

Circa: 1989. It only lasted about six months, with a large break between early December, and mid-February. Still, and all, there were around 20-25 sessions averaging about 7 hours each.

Gamemaster: NEW FEATURE! The GM for this was my friend John's brother Pete. Pete was about 25, white male, Huge Star Wars fan. 

Player Base: There were five regular players, including myself, all male, all between 20-22 years of age. Three of the players were African-American, two were Caucasian. 

A few other players joined in for 'guest star' rolls. Most only for one, or two sessions. Most were male, one female player, same age ranges, various ethnicities.

Characters: The overall theme of the campaign was a bunch of murderhobo ne'er do wells who somehow get it together and end up honest-to-goodness heroes. None of the character were truly that despicable to be honest. They were movie matinee/serial feature crooks, and criminals, with a heavy dose of bearing in mind that the 'law' was the Imperial Empire. 

So really, who's the villain? Am I right?

Alec Raydawn, Human Con Man / Young Jedi (played by Mike F.)

A young con artist who grew up on the streets of Cloud City, the glistening metropolis that floats over the gas giant world of Bespin. 

Abandoned, or possibly orphaned as a child, Alec lived in the ducts, tunnels, and subsurface chambers throughout the city. He eventually gained access to an apartment by posing as a Tibana gas mining executive until he was discovered by the Baron Administrator. A former scoundrel himself, the Administrator let Raydawn go, shipping him off on the next gas freighter to the planet Ord Itani, where Alec could get a fresh start.

While on Ord Itani, Reydawn ran afoul of the notorious crimelord Chuuphga Two-By-Four, and eventually hooked up with a gang of outlaws known as 'The Laughing Gundarks'. Together they uncovered a secret operation by Chuuphga, backed by the Imperial Empire, that lead to the discovery of ancient Jedi texts.

Raydawn's true lineage came to the fore when he discovered his parents may have been Jedi Knights killed in the purge that wiped out their order. Raydawn decided to change his ways (mostly) and follow the teachings of the Jedi in hopes of defeating the Empire.

Alec Raydawn was a handsome if scruffy looking man in his mid-to-late 20s. He normally dressed in a plain, rough and tumble fashion, but was very good at disguise, and blended in well wherever he went. He carried two blaster pistols - a long barreled hunter pistol, and a very small hold-out blaster that was weak, but easy to conceal.

He eventually learns the ways of The Force...somewhat. He never truly masters it, but he continues to try his best. He finds a damaged lightsaber at one point, and is able to repair it, keeping it as his own. It's blade is a pale blue/white.

Dreg, Rodian Smuggler (played by ME! Yay!)

My character! Woo-hoo!

Dreg hails from rain forest/jungle world in Hutt Space. As such, his coloration in a deeper, but brighter green than most Rodians. His snout it a bit longer, and his antenna, and ears a bit larger. 

Dreg's father was a legitimate merchant for many years, until the heavy taxes of the Empire and the protection money he needed to pay the Hutts drove his business to ruin. When he was old enough, Dreg decided to take his dad's ship, and try to make money as a smuggler. After every successful haul (there weren't many) he would send money back to his family. 

The life of a Smuggler was tough on Dreg, and he became quite nervous, almost neurotic. He was a terrible shot, a bit of a coward, but good at talking his way out of bad situations. 

Eventually, Dreg found himself on the run from various creditors, including a Hutt named Gumbad, and the galactic kingpin Chuuphga Two-by-Four. He was also hounded by various criminals seeking revenge on him, mistakenly believing him to be a Rodian Bounty Hunter named Reek. 

Hiding out on Ord Itani, Dreg met Reek, and some other characters who all ended up teaming up to save each other from Chuuphga's goons. Before long, they started calling themselves 'The Laughing Gundarks' (named for their favorite cantina - see Synopsis), and became a major thorn in the side of both Chuuphga, and the Galactic Empire.

Dreg wears a long coat, over a cheap, hand-me-down pilot's uniform. He carries a blaster pistol, but is a lousy shot for most of the campaign. Eventually, Reek takes pitty on Dreg, and teaches him to shoot, and fight. 

Dreg is a mess of anxiety, little fears, and neurosis. My portrayal of the character was largely inspired by Woody Allen in Sleeper, and Take The Money, and Run

His ship is his baby, a converted Koensayr KT-104 Troop Transport called 'The Green Sun Endeavor'. The Troop compartments have been converted into cabins, and additional cargo space. It is not the most maneuverable ship out there, though it can go straight very fast thanks to large, and powerful main thrusters. It can take a beating, and dish one out. 
Dreg also has a Treadwell Droid named WED-15ND, sometimes called 'Wendy'.

The Green Sun Endeavor
A Koensayr KT-104 Troop Transport
Converted for civilian use.

Reek, Rodian Bounty Hunter (played by John C.)

A feared, and notoriously tough Bounty Hunter operating in the Outer Rim Territories, Reek originally hailed from a Rodian colony world, giving him a distinctive deep, bright green skin color, and longer than average ears, antenna, and snout. 

As such, there came a point when he was repeatedly mistaken for another native to his homeworld, a cowardly, cringing smuggler who went by the name of Dreg. Creditors, and two big different crime boss both sent muscle to rough Reek up, accidentally mistaking him for Dreg. Reek handed them their butts, and started looking for this Dreg guy to clear things up once, and for all.

Reek, and Dreg finally encountered each other on the world of Ord Itani, when they were caught in the crossfire between people out to get each of them. This soon lead to Reek becoming labelled an outlaw himself, and associated with the 'Laughing Gundarks' gang by both the Imperial Empire, and the underworld figure Chuuphga Two-By-Four. Reek's personal sense of honor made him join up with the ragtag bunch, and devout his note worthy fighting skills to his new found friends, and later the Rebellion. 

Reek is a Rodian in black, and dull red uniform, covered in charcoal colored body armor. He carries numerous weapons, but a heavy blaster rifle, a heavy blaster pistol, and a vibro-knife are among his favorites. He is a terrible pilot, and driver, though he has convinced himself he is good at pretty much everything. When reality sets in he offers to teach Dreg how to fight in exchange for Dreg teaching him how to drive, and co-pilot the ship when necessary.

Reek and Dreg end up best friends, almost like brothers, but their relationship has shades of The Odd Couple (Oscar and Felix respectively).

Hud Choban, Uchoda Mechanic (played by Travis G.)

Hud Choban is an Uchoda (YOO-choh-duh) an original alien species created by the player [Travis] and based on this illustration by concept artist Rob Cobb [for Star Wars: A New Hope]:

Unused alien concept art for Star Wars - Episode IV: A New Hope
By the talented and prolific Ron Cobb.

Choban, like all members of his species, possesses traits related to various arctic animals including polar bears, walruses, and even penguins. Like the Platypus, the Uchoda are egg laying mammals. Choban has great physical strength, but even greater endurance, and stamina. He is an excellent swimmer, and obviously highly resistant to cold and water pressure. His thick fur covers a layer of blubber tissue that provides armor against attacks such as punches, kicks, or being hit with a bludgeoning weapon. 

When we first meet Hud Choban he is working as repair man, and part-time bouncer for a cantina on Ord Itani called 'The Laughing Gundark'.

One evening at work, Choban breaks up a fight between a Rodian pilot, and a group of men working for interstellar criminal Chuuphga Two-By-Four. Later that same evening, Hud sees a few of those same men, and a few others he doesn't recognize, trying to start up a fight with...the same Rodian? Couldn't be. This guy looked totally different, and seemed like he could handle himself. While he should have gone straight home to bed, Choban decided (against his better judgement) to help out the mysterious Rodian. Choban, and his new friend Reek soon cross path's with Dreg, the Rodian Pilot from earlier. The three of them end up caught in a firefight between a group of hired guns after Dreg, and another after Reek. 

The team ends up escaping the battle, and runs right into Alec Raydawn. Also being hunted by Chuuphga, and his minions, Raydawn joins the group and they all head for Dreg's ship.

Choban is easy-going, laid back kind of fellow just trying to get by. His world was invaded, and his people enslaved by the Empire. While he harbored a desire to free his planet, for the most part he just tried to keep his head low, and avoid too much trouble. All that changed when he joined up with the rest of the group.

Hud is about 6' 4", but stoops over a bit, and is very broad-shouldered. His fur is a light yellow-cream color fading to white on his chest. His skin underneath the fur, seen on his face, palms, and the bottoms of his feet, is a very light, warm grey. He rarely wears clothing, but will sometimes don a sleeveless vest for the pockets. He normally has his tools, gears, and weapons on his belt, or in a pack slung across his back. He carries a blaster carbine that he always uses one-handed. 

Tageris 'Tag' Aether, Human Starfighter Pilot (played by Mark E.)

For several years Tag (short for Tageris) was a star pilot for hire, serving as a mercenary on the border between the Outer Rim, and the Inner Rim. At least that was his cover story. In truth, the serious, stalwart, and no-nonsense ace was a secret recruiter for the Rebel Alliance.

Tag Aether's heavily customized

Shobquix Yards Toscan 8-Q Starfighter

While investigating a build up of independent starship movements in the Outer Rim Territories, Tag discovered the galactic kingpin Chuuphga Two-By-Four was amassing a small fleet of armed vessels. Clues indicated he was being backed by another, even bigger party. While trying to follow up a lead, Aether witnessed an altercation between a group of Chuuphga's men, and a small band of scoundrels whom he had been keeping tabs on. 

One thing lead to another and Tag ended up teaming up with the oddball group, helping them escape from Ord Itani with Chuuphga's men hot on their tail. In addition, henchmen of Gumbad the Hutt, and agents of the Imperial Empire joined in. Outer Rim TIE Pilots were no match for Tag and his custom fightercraft, and in combination with the rest of the gang aboard the Green Sun Endeavor, Aether managed to lead the group to relative safety on the planet Nanador. 

Aether kept up appearances as a fellow scallywag, while trying to convince the team to join up with the Rebellion. After man (often hilarious) misunderstandings about what he was really trying to do, the group eventually agrees to become part of the Alliance Fleet.

Tag Aether is a handsome, fit man in his late 20s-early 30s. He is most often seen wearing either a Rebel Pilot Flight Suit in blue (instead of the traditional orange), or fairly normal cloths similar to what Han Solo would wear. His pilot helmet has red stripes across blue fields. He carries a heavy blaster pistol as his standard weapon.

His fighter is a Shobquix Yards Toscan 8-Q Starfighter, a design pre-dating the Clone Wars. Built specifically to be easily modifiable, Tag's very has an Astromech socket for his R2 unit (R2-RB1, 'Ruby'), twin ion cannons from a Y-Wing fighter, and four fire-linked laser cannons. Later in the campaign he gets an improved hyperdrive, improved shields, and slightly more powerful engines. The fighter's main weaknesses are that its sublight speed, and maneuverability are considerably behind more modern fighters like the X-Wing, Y-Wing, and TIE Interceptor. 

Watch for Part II...

Barking Alien

Friday, October 7, 2016

Return of the Jedi

Just a quick update as I am pretty busy today, but I realize I haven't posted much this month. It's already the 7th of October, and this is only my second entry. Ugh.

As noted in my last post, I am gearing up for a new Star Wars campaign using the WEG D6 system with a gestalt group combining members of my old New York High School gang, my New Jersey gang, and one new edition who is a friend of a NJ player. Right now there are only four players, plus myself, but we'll see. Others may join later. 

I am astonished at how easy it's been to assemble this game. Even the creation of the campaign concept has gone smoothly. It's like magic. I suggested some ideas, people talked, one idea got mentioned both seriously, and jokingly a few times, and we all decided that if it caught our imaginations that fast then that's the winner.

Then characters - One fellow came up with a very basic idea, a Human Smuggler with a bigger, heavier freighter than the famous Millennium Falcon, and then he needed a co-pilot/partner - Who's that guy? What's his deal? Next thing you know we have an Ithorian Fixer, a social type of character who knows someone who can get you thing you want no matter where they go. 

The Vagabond
A Corellian Engineering Corp. YV-929 Armed Light Freighter

Design and Illustration by the incredible Jeff Carlisle
Colors by Me.
Background by NASA.

It's all falling into place so effortlessly. 

I can't wait to see what the remaining characters are like, and what they decide to do in the setting. I have a general idea of the campaign's theme, and some of the plots I'm scattering among the stars.


More to come, 

Barking Alien

Monday, October 3, 2016

Bringing Balance To The Force

I have been in a strange state lately.

I feel The Force, or at least my place in it, is out of balance.

As I get closer, and closer to 2017 and my forty year anniversary in the gaming hobby, I feel I am enjoying my gaming less, and less

I should specify that I am referring to my time as a GM. I am having fun as a player more than ever before, but my preferred position of Gamemaster has been wearing on my nerves.

I have been 'off my game' for sometime now. Possibly as long as three years, or more, if truth be told.

Part of it is a feeling of incompatibility with my current gaming comrades.

Not a clash of personalities, as I love all these dudes, and dudettes dearly. These are solid folks; good people, no question about it.

Somehow though, our play styles and gaming philosophies don't exactly gel one hundred percent. It feels glitchy, and jury-rigged. I feel like a PC running Windows 10 - most everything works a good deal of the time, except when it randomly crashes without warning.

It occurred to me that I really need do something about this. I need to stop complaining about it, stop musing over the cards dealt, and take some real action. Much like my experience with trying to upgrade to Windows 10, what I need to do to move forward is go backward - a system restore to my default settings if you will. I need to reboot (but ya'know, in a good way).

Hopefully my solution will bring me peace of mind...and balance to The Force.

Let's hope it goes better than this.
Poor Ahsoka...

I went and made contact with a few of my friends from my old (and oft mentioned) New Jersey and New York groups.

We're talking about people I've known for over 20-30 years, but haven't seen more than a handful of times in the past five-to-ten. In addition, I added one new person who I met a few years back through one of my ol' Jersey crew.

The end result is a group of three, or four players (so far), and a plan to run a campaign with them one session a month, no set day due to the nature of schedules. Just a mutual promise of meeting for a session once a month.

The game? Star Wars, The Role Playing Game by West End Games.

I considered, and suggested a number of different game choices to the group, but we all got wrapped up in the nostalgia and symmetry of 2017 being 40 Years of Gaming and 40 Years of Star Wars. 

A date for the first session hasn't been set, though we are examining some possibilities at this time.

I'll be taking the time to work on some story ideas, NPCs, planets, and the like. 

I'm excited about this. Really excited. Recharged.

Not only am I looking forward to a campaign of one of my favorite games, with some of my favorite people, in my preferred play style, but I am also looking forward to feeling like...I am still good at this. I'm looking forward to feeling like my games rock again. 

If this works, maybe all my games will rock.

Maybe the balance of The Force will be restored.

We shall see,

Barking Alien

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

A Brief Intermission

Probably won't be posting again until next month.

Here is a favorite Sci-Fi painting of mine to hold you over.

'The Early Williamson'
By Peter Elson, 1985

I need some time to assess my personal 'state of gaming', and figure out where I'm going from here. 

I have a ton of ideas, but I feel that I don't have the right outlet for most of them at this time.

I'll return in a week.

Clear Skies,

Barking Alien

Sunday, September 25, 2016

The Point

Are you familiar with the story of Oblio, the round-headed boy born to the Land of Point?

In the Land of Point, everyone has a point, quite literally, on the top of their heads. 

Oblio is born with a round head, and as such there is no point to him in the eyes of many. 

Eventually, due to a peculiarity of circumstance, Oblio is banished to the place where everything with no point goes...The Pointless Forest.

It is in the Pointless Forest that he encounters strange people, curious creatures, and unusual, um, points of view. He discovers that everyone, and everything, has a point of some kind, even a seemingly pointless boy like himself.


What is the point of gaming? Specifically, what is the point of table top RPG gaming?

"Why, the point is to have fun!"
-Man With Something To Say, But No Point To Make.

Thank you Man With Something To Say, But No Point To Make. Your uncanny insight, and astute observations have revealed a grand epiphany!

OK, no. They haven't. This oft heard, and oft read response is apropos of nothing.

Lots of things are fun. All hobbies are, by the sheer fact that they are partook of, fun in some capacity. That tells me nothing.

"There are as many points to gaming as people who play.
Everyone has their own point for why they play."
-Man Pointing In Every Direction At Once.

Thank you Man Pointing In Every Direction At Once. Without you I would be directionless in my attempt to seek an answer. Now I know to look everywhere. Everywhere at once. Gee, thanks.

Where would you like me to punch you? How about everywhere at once? How does that sound?

Still, hold on a moment. This pointless statement may have some truth to it after all. Perhaps it is saying we all make, or have our own point as to why we game. I shouldn't look 
to another to answer my question, but rather create my own answer.

Why do I do it? What's the point for me?

I've spent much of this month in an existential quandary you see...

I love gaming. 
My favorite part of gaming is being a Gamemaster.
I've Gamemastered some good game sessions over the past year.

I am not happy with my gaming.

This past weekend I tried running one of my dream RPG game projects. It's one which I had planned out some 20+ years ago, but never got a chance to run.

I did quite a lot of prep work for it. I modified some maps, did a lot of research, put together record sheets of characters (both PC and NPC), designed some other elements (along with creating and/or modifying artwork for them), and reworked a game system to fit the setting.

It didn't go over well.

I know why, and I know that it was partially my fault. As I often do, I chose a setting with too big a buy-in, expected people unfamiliar with it to want to explore it, get to know it, and hoped that I could introduce the various elements in a slow trickle that would get them wanting to go further.

I didn't do a good job of it. I also don't really have the kinds of players I would need to make it happen. I should have known that. I should've expected as much. This isn't our first rodeo. I know how they are.

I let my excitement over the opportunity of running a setting I love overwhelm the cynical, paranoid part of my brain that should absolutely have known better.

It happens.

Where was I? Oh, yes. The point.

Why do I do what I do? Why are RPGs my favorite thing? Why aren't I watching sportsball, going to bars, or watching reality TV like the rest of the axe-wearing, alcohol swilling, slow witted masses of male humanity?

Because I won't. I can't. It isn't in my DNA.

I have to do this. I am a gamer, but even more so I'm a creative type. I went to an art high school. I've been reading, and writing Science Fiction since I was six. I have built worlds, studied technology that may never exist, and reasoned out the unreasonable nature of faerie folk. 

All I want to do is create something awesome, and share it with a group of people interested in the same things. I want to take my ideas, mix in their ideas, and tell a story. I want to have people who want to hear that story, to add to it, to see where it goes.

I am frustrated by endless second guessing, a lack of attention to what is being presented, presumptions instead of discoveries, and experiences. I miss making something my players love receiving, and that I loved making for them. I want to see the looks on their faces when they realize I've incorporated their own ideas into something I used to surprise them.

I...the point. What is the point?


The point is I once had Nirvana. Shangri-La. I once created works of art, with the help of other artists, who appreciated what I did.

I'm not sure I have that, quite that way any longer.

If I don't, and I can't make magic that will dazzle, exhilarate, and fascinate my audience...well then really...

What's the point?

Barking Alien