Wednesday, January 13, 2021

31 Days / 31 Characters - GATES

Teenagers from Outer Space is one of my all time favorite RPGs for so many reasons.

First and foremost, its super simple, straightforward, and easy to modify. Second, the game is written in a fun, humorous manner with enough personality to get you into the feel of things right away. Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, it is a game about Japanese Animated Comedy by Mike Pondsmith, a man who understands Japanese Animated Comedies. 

When this game came out I was already a huge Anime fan at a time when not everyone in the USA knew what Anime was. This game got it though and I used that to introduce this particular brand of awesome-ness to all my buddies. 

My first and possibly best TFOS campaign was 'Blast City Blues' and my own character in that setting is Gates.

Character: His real name is a series of high-pitched squeeks, chirps, and clicks that end in what sounds a bit like 'GEEL'. 

AKA: Gil Gates

Player: Non-Player Character, turned PC. Played by Adam Dickstein.

System: Teenagers from Outer Space - First and Second Edition.
Campaign: Blast City Blues and Blast City Blues: Summer Break.

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein and Others

Circa: 1987-1989

Origins: The original version of Gates came from a drawing.

I was practicing illustrating in an Anime/Manga style, with my major influence being Rumiko Takahashi, the renowned female Manga artist famous for some of the most popular series of the 80s and 90s. I drew a basic male character who bore some resemblance to Ryunosuke from Urusei Yatsura (a female character often mistaken for a boy) and Ryoga from Ranma 1/2. 

A few days later, after buying the first Teenagers from Outer Space book and reading it through several times, I found myself opening up a notebook to write down some campaign ideas and seeing my drawing right there in front of me. I think I stared at it for a few moments before added glasses to the character. Then antenna. That's when the character and the idea for Blast City Blues rushed into my head. 

Backstory: Unpronounceable-GEEL and his twin sister Unpronounceable-GEEGEE were orphaned when their parents stayed behind during the mass exodus from the United Galaxy Alliance region of space to the Earth. It was implied they invented the Star Drive technology that got everyone else away before the voracious Dreggetti arrived. 

The two infant Googlimooglians (Gates' species) were not in the main ship but one of several vessel forming a convoy behind it. Their vessel finally reached Earth some years after the capital ship that became Blast City and were released from stasis about 15 years before the first campaign's 'present'. The twins were adopted by First Contact Specialist Gertrude Gates and her Exobiologist husband Godfrey Gates. This is how the Googlimooglians got their names, Gil and Gigi Gates.

As they grew up they could be more opposite. Like all Googlimooglians the twin were remarkably intelligent and good at engineering and science but Gil was an introvert, nerdy, emotionally detached (on the outside), and socially awkward. His sister, who was considered very attractive by Humans and other aliens, was outgoing, cool, in-your-face, and wore her feelings on her sleeve. 

The rebellious Gigi was a trouble-maker and too much for the aging Gates couple to handle so she was sent to live with relatives on Mars. 

Gil on the other hand was a genius, a model student, excepted into all kinds of advanced programs, and felt very, very alone. With his sister gone he had no friends, was teases for his odd appearance (there weren't any other Googlimooglians around), thick glasses (our Sun generates more like during the day hours than their home star), and his egg-headed pursuits. 

He begins Blast City High School a sad and lonely super-scientist.

Overview: When we meet Gil for the first time in the game he is attending Blast City High and getting picked on/bullied by a bunch of Humans and aliens. He is saved by Miguel 'Mecha' Herrera and the two end up becoming best friends. The cast builds and builds with all sorts of offbeat and even downright bizarre Humans, aliens, robots, and other manner of people getting involved in their crazy adventures. All but one...Gigi Gates.

For nearly a year of play, no one knew Gates (everyone called him by his last name) even had a sister. She is never seen or referred to. Then there were a couple of more serious episodes and in one Gates mentions that there are very few Googlimooglians left in the universe. To his knowledge, "We may be the last." The other Players/PCs thought he meant 'we' as in the ones living in Blast City but what he really meant was he and his sister. 

In one of the last story arcs in the original campaign, Earth is invaded by a fleet of Galactic Pirates who are there to obtain some Time Travel device they think is hidden in the bowls of Blast City. Leading the charge is...GIGI?!? Yep, Gigi Gates, who had been attending Blast City's rival school Mars High, quit school to become a space pirate. 'Mech''s player begins a running joke were he is trying to defeat the Googlimooglian Space Biker Chick with Gates' help while also trying to get Gates to fix him up with his sister. "But...It's...THEY'RE THE SAME PERSON!"

"I know", says Mech, "You're a genius Gates. Multi-tasking like this should be easy for you."

The Highlights:

Gates was often the catalyst of the trouble in many adventures. 

Gates once invented a teleporter that ended up being a duplicator, generating an exact copy of the person who used it...only evil. 

There was the time he determined the mathematical calculation for Cool and made himself the coolest kid in school, as well as a complete mega-jerk. He attracted a legion of other mega-jerks resulting in a horde of smooth, well dressed, zombie a-holes. 

There was the time he borrowed a library book while on a school trip to Alpha Centauri and relativistic time from lightspeed travel made it over 4 years over due. The Library Network sent a Librarian to retrieve it; a Terminator-like combat android whose exterior looked like a thin, grey haired old lady who could smash through steel walls and fire stun blasts out of her eyes. This story was illustrated into a comic book for our RPG Clubs entry into the Art & Design High School Art Festival. 

 During the Boogie Ball Championship between Blast City High and Luna Prep, Gates and Speed (my friend David Concepcion's character) realized the Luna team was cheating. While Mech played against them despite this, Gates and Speed investigated and had to deal with some tough opponents and a kid who was essentially as smart as Gates! That was fun and really challenging.

Legacy: Gates hasn't been seen in a game in many years, which makes me a little bummed just thinking about it. The image I used above is the first picture of him I've done in forever and it made me smile to depict him once again. 

Hopefully he'll get the chance to mad-science again in the near future.

Game Info: As I've mentioned before, one of the first changes I made to TFOS was to change its die type from a D6 to a D10 to get a greater range and make it more compatible with the other 'Interlock' games from R. Talsorian. Therefore Gates' stats read like this:

'Gil' Gates - Near Human, Male.

SMARTS: 10                     DRIVING: 4
BOD: 4                              LOOKS: 6
R.W.P.: 7                           COOL: 3
LUCK: 3                            BONK: 5

KNACKS: Super Science: 4, Latest Invention: 4. Investigate: 2

POWERS: Mad Genius: 10

Next up, we warp into the Final Frontier - FINALLY! Let's go where no one has gone before with Lt. HEREK of the USS Gryphon!

Barking Alien

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

31 Days / 31 Characters - THE GAMMA MAN

This next character is the first one on the list that fits into the Comic Book Superhero genre, which like the previous Star Wars entry is quite surprising in how long that it took to get to one.

What we have here is no Superhero however. This is a villain, though in truth that is a simplification. As you will read, The Gamma Man, aka DA GAMMA-MAN, is more akin to the act of an angry god.

Facing off against the The Gamma Man isn't like the Avengers facing off against M.O.D.O.K. or even Thanos. It's more like when the Justice League are called in to save an Oil Rig from an undersea earthquake, as well as a beachside Californian town from the resulting tidal wave the earthquake caused. 

Character: The original version created by Nelson Marty and Jemi Stark was called 'DA GAMMA-MAN'. Shouted loud and clear with the fury of a hurricane. 'Da' being a purposeful mispronunciation of 'The'. 

My alternate version, which I've used in several Superhero campaigns over the years, also uses the 'Da' when he speaks but is referred to by others as The Gamma Man.

Player: Non-Player Character. Created by Nelson Marty.

System: I've used The GAMMA MAN in Champions 4th Edition, Mutants and Masterminds 1st and 3rd, and Villains & Vigilantes 2nd Edition. Nelson may have used him in Heroes Unlimited.  
Campaign: Dynamos Unlimited (M&M), The New Champions (Champions), and others. 

Gamemasters: Adam Dickstein and Nelson Marty. 

Circa: Originally created around 1985-86. Used off and on since.

Origins: According to Nelson, the creator of The Gamma Man:

"This character was created, as many of mine were, as a joke during a phone conversation.  Me and a good friend were joking around and one of us said "well look behind you"  and the response was, "BOOOOMMMM...DA GAMMA-MAN!!", and the rest as they say is history.  

Funny enough, when I first drew him I was doing my best to homage/spoof the king, comics legend Jack Kirby, but [for some reason] I drew him looking like he was in some kind of containment/restraining suit or rather what was left of one. Then about 10 years later, DC used that chip they snuck into my head and low and behold 'Doomsday' was born. That is another story.

Fortunately I had already come up with his secondary design.  He had a chromed gold look with the gamma symbol on his chest. Adam had drawn a version but had never seen my color version and made his green. When I asked him why he'd you made him green, he said because he's the Gamma-Man and gamma equals green. My response was (jokingly) that's Marvel, do you want to get sued!?  😅  But, as any creator should, I took his concept of the character and worked it into my lore.  This is one of the few characters I've created where total strangers will nearly curse me out once they realize I'm the guy that created him.  Thanks to him being used by various friends in their campaigns.

That is the origin of DA GAMMA-MAN and even The Gamma Man but it isn't all the stories of all the Gamma Men. DA GAMMA-MANs? Are they Gamma-Man Men? People we've run games for and people they've run games for have used this character or a version of him all across the multiverse, hypertime, and then some. 

I actually had a guy I never met before yell 'DA GAMMA-MAN!' in a Superhero RPG session at a convention in NJ when another players PC blew up a villain with powers similar to the Human Bomb. My jaw dropped. "How the hell do you know who The Gamma Man is", I said dumbfounded.

"What?! How do you? We fought him in my friend's game in the Bronx."

Backstory: Da Gamma-Man. Nobody truly knows his...its…origins. Force of nature, science experiment gone wrong or worse, gone right.  What is known is that he appears seemingly at random, in a huge, explosive fireball, causes carnage on hitherto untold scales and then just vanishes as chaotically as he appeared.

From the best guesses/observations of the myriad civilizations that have encountered Da Gamma-Man, he revels in combat; pure, unfiltered, destructive combat.  He has been known to just as suddenly leave a fight if it is no longer "fun" for him as quickly as he enters into them.

Many hypotheses exist. He's a test, to get those he fights ready for who knows what.  He's a plague, a god of destruction, a chaos elemental. Some even say that his explosive teleport allows him to traverse both space, time, and dimensions.

At a glance he is obviously super strong and has either true invulnerability or an insanely high degree of regenerative healing. His endurance is Unearthly. As previously mentioned, he can teleport and the range is unbelievable. The telltale signature of his teleport is an implosion to explosion, exit to entrance. The devastation of his teleportation is possibly due to how far he can teleport and the energy required to do so.

He does appear to have some limited telepathy because anyone that hears his ubiquitous self-naming scream tends to hear it in their native tongue. Along with that is the fact that he seems to be able track a target anywhere, across any distance. 

 Like the boogie man, don't say his name, be it once or three times, or else you may come face to face with...DA GAMMA-MAN!

Two versions of DA GAMMA-MAN!

On the left, The GAMMA MAN as he appeared in our Mutants and Masterminds game
On the right, DA GAMMA MAN as he appeared in one of our Champions campaigns. 

Overview:  As noted, there have been several variations of The Gamma Man, though each shares one very distinctive element in common beyond the way they roar out their name. They are all incredibly dangerous, powerful, and a nightmare to face off against. 

In one of my earliest uses of him, he nearly defeated an entire team of Villains and Vigilantes PC Superheroes, killing two of them, before being held in place long enough that he tired of the battle and left. 

In one Champions game he fought our three most powerful members to stand still physically, almost easily, before being cast off into another dimension by our resident Dr. Strange-type Magic hero. 

When the heroes of our Dynamos Unlimited campaign were temporary banished/trapped on the extra-planar planet known as Nth World, The GAMMA MAN was one of a handful of villains brought there as well from infinite parallel Earths. There were only four villains in total, while the combined number of Dynamo members were 9 or 10 I believe. The GAMMA MAN proved to be very difficult to harm, though he was stunned (mostly out of sheer surprise and shock) by the bold and desperate hijinks of the costumed clown hero called Trix. 

Art from the early 1990s by
Nelson Marty

The Highlights:

There are many, including those listed above by the fight between my version of The GAMMA MAN and the Superhero team 'The Safeguard' was definitely the most brutal. 

At one point, Meter Man (who can shrink or grow in metric increments) sees THE GAMMA MAN on the top of a nearby building. Becoming a decameter tall (roughly 32 feet), he reaches to grab THE GAMMA MAN and just before he has him THE GAMMA MAN teleports. He reappears on Meter Man's shoulder, blasting his face such that he is thrown backward. Meter Man lands on his back in the middle of the street.

THE GAMMA MAN falls off the larger being as Meter Man topples and crashes to the street below. He is hit by the teams' Speedster but it barely phases THE GAMMA MAN. He teleports again, reappearing on Meter Man's chest with such force he plants him into the a crater in the asphalt. 

Pushing his power to the limit, Meter Man shrinks down to a millimeter and then quickly back up to his maximum height of 10 decameters, or 328 feet. Doing this below THE GAMMA MAN he is able to toss the monster high into the air where he is caught by three flying Supers, one with Telekinesis, one with Energy Blasts, and one with Electric/Lightning attacks. Held in a damaging bubble of energy and psychic force eventually annoys THE GAMMA MAN in a different way and he teleports away and does not return. 

Meter Man, injured earlier in the battle protecting school children and later the agile archer Arrowsmith, dies from his wounds. 


Game Info: The best way I can describe THE GAMMA MAN's powers are in Champions terms: Energy Blast - Area of Effect - Explosive linked to Teleportation. Limitation: Only Activates on Reappearance. 

Also, Super Strength (a lot of it), Armored Skin, Damage Resistance, Regeneration, and Super Jumping. 


Next up, the school year is starting and look who thinks he can sit at the Cool Kids' table. It's none other than Blast City High School's resident Super-Science nerd, GATES!

Barking Alien

Monday, January 11, 2021

31 Days / 31 Characters - FLEETO WOFF

A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

It's pretty incredible to me that it's taken this many entries to get to my first Star Wars character. Considering my love for the franchise, the number of times I've run it, and the number of times it's been mentioned on this blog, you'd think the first few weeks would be teeming with Star Wars PCs and/or NPCs.

Well, it certainly could have been. I definitely have enough Star Wars characters to make that happen. The thing is, I'm trying to cover characters that I haven't talked about enough when compared to how great they are. Another personal criteria is to show a wide array of games and genres. Considering how long I've been at this and how many games I've run and (to a lesser extent) played, the intention was to avoid making this merely a collection of Star Trek, Star Wars, and Superhero characters.. 

That said, you can't keep a good Mandalorian down...

Character: Fleeto Woff

AKA: Fleet (nickname)

Player: Non-Player Character

System: Star Wars, The Role Playing Game (Star Wars D6). All Editions
Campaign: First appeared in 'The Smiling Bantha Gang' campaign and then went on to feature in many subsequent Star Wars campaigns. 

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein 

Circa: Created in 1978 but not used in a game until 1990. I think. Possibly used in 1982 but I am not certain. 

Origins: The legend goes that after watching the infamous 'Star Wars Holiday Special', my best friend Joe and I were absolutely in love with Boba Fett - as were most of our friends - but we could not remember his name. He threw out ideas and each seemed sillier than the last. One in particular came close, 'Baba Fetts', but Joe thought it sounded like a breakfast cereal. Eventually I thought I had it, Fleeto Woff! Joe said it sounded right and everyone else I mentioned it to agreed that this must be it. 

Obviously we would  later learn this was wrong thanks to the Mail-Away Kenner Action Figure promotion, not to mention The Empire Strike Back. For a while, saying Fleeto Woff made us all chuckle. How could we have been so far off? 

When it came time to run a Star Wars RPG campaign and I needed a cool bounty hunter, I pulled out none other than Fleeto Woff, Mandalorian Mercenary! He has since appeared in almost every long form Star Wars campaign I've ever run. 

Now with added and adjusted elements from The Clone Wars, Rebels, and The Mandalorian!

Backstory: Virtually nothing is known about Fleeto Woff's early life, although reasonable speculation can be made. He is believed to be in his early-to-mid 30s during the time of the Galactic Civil War and was likely born on Mandalore prior to the siege of that world near the end of the Clone Wars. Woff is the name of a very small Mandalorian clan largely wiped out during the aforementioned 'Siege of Mandalore'. It is largely believed Fleeto is the last of his line. 

Based on his extensive knowledge of the Outer Rim Territories and his numerous patrons in that region, Woff probably spent most of his adult life there and maybe some of his youth. Curiously, his family sigil - seen detailed on the 'forehead' of his helmet - depicts the eyes of the Crag-Bats of Pumot, an Outer Rim world that once served as a Mandalorian outpost. Fun Fact: Woff's short cape and parts of his outfit are made of Crag-Bat leather. 

Overview: Bodyguard, bounty hunter, hitman, and mercenary, Fleeto Woff is - at least at first glance - the typical scum and villainy hired blaster you'd expect to see working the Outer Rim in the service of gangsters like Hooker Spicelot and Chuuphga 'Two-by-Four'. What sets him apart is his demeanor and attitude, which often catches people by surprise. 

Generally polite and business-like, he differs from the usual 'Mandalorian-of-few-words' like Boba Fett and Din Djarin by being more than willing to talk to targets, allies, and employers alike. I wouldn't describe him as a chatterbox, just that he is a cordial and amiable man doing a job that he takes pride in. A blue collar Joe making his way through the galaxy. 

One interesting aspect of the character is he won't work for the Empire or take Imperial contracts or commissions. He will work with Imperial Forces if he has to but does not like it and has been known to be clear and vocal on the subject. On more than one occasion, when Imperials were after the same target he was, Woff was known to blast Stormtroopers trying to take his quarry. 

Fleeto Woff has survived well into the post-Return of the Jedi era and has been seen as late as ten years after the destruction of the second Death Star at the Battle of Endor. He never likes to lose or give up but will call it quits if the fight is definitely lost. Woff doesn't fight to the death if he doesn't have to; an aspect that has enabled him to survive a lot longer than others in his line of work. 

The Highlights:

Fleeto Woff once chased Smuggler and Rebel En Fochs and his modified droid MAN-2 into the bowls of an Imperial Interdictor Class Star Destroyer. During the battle, damage to a coolant system flooded a large, open chamber with thick gas. Using distractions, stealth, and MAN-2's sensors, the pair were able to elude Woff in the coolant's chemical fog and eventually got the drop on him. He was so impressed by their teamwork he gave up, dropped his weapon, and asked that he be allowed to leave in peace. In exchange he'd tell his boss that Fochs was killed in the destruction of the Interdictor. "But the ship isn't in danger of...", Fochs began, when Woff pointed to the rocket on his back. 

"There was an explosion. I hear their coolant system failed", said Woff shaking his head. 

One of my favorite moments with Woff was when his ship, a Skipray Blastboat (the exact name of which escapes me but it was the -Something- Payload), was in pursuit of a PC light freighter and a squadron of Imperial TIE Fighters showed up alongside him. They thanked him for detaining the fugitives and told him to move aside and leave it to them. One of the TIEs fired warning shots at the PC vessel and Woff blew it to space dust. He then fired at the rest of the TIEs in an attempt to make them back off. They were so stunned they veered into each other or off course, enabling both the PC ship and Woff to get away. 

Like other Mandalorians, Fleeto Woff's armor has a few hidden tricks and gimmicks but his major secret weaon is the rocket on his Jetpack. It isn't just explosive - It can do loaded with a host of different warheads including tear gas, quick hardening foam, an anti-droid EMP, and a concussive bomb that does less damage but throws victims several meters from the blast center. 

Legacy: I can't think of any full on, long term Star Wars campaigns I've run where Fleeto Woff didn't show up at one point or another. I don't see him retiring any time soon. Even if he did, maybe he'd settle down, raise a family, and train a youngling. There will always be a Fleeto Woff. 

Game Info: Here's a character sheet for Fleeto using the Star Wars D6 2nd Edition version of the system. Woff has had numerous writes-ups over the years and this is simply how I see him right now. Remember, this is an NPC and not a Player Character, so his skills are elevated to reflect his years of experience and status as a serious threat to the PCs.


Barking Alien

Sunday, January 10, 2021

31 Days / 31 Characters - EMIL FUJIKAWA

One of my best, longest, and most influential games in recent memory was my Traveller campaign, Operation: PALADIN.

It was also, on occasion, something of a nightmare. Fear of being injured, discovered, or any number of other things kept some PCs from being bold when it was needed. This frustrated other PCs who would respond by acting independently in an especially bold fashion that was counter to the rest of the team. You can read more about the trials, tribulations, as well as the good times by checking out the Operation: PALADIN tag. I believe there are some general Traveller posts that may discuss this campaign as well. 

While I've talked about this campaign and some of its character in detail in the past, one character who hasn't received enough attention is my friend Ray's PC, Dr. Emil Fujikawa. 

Character: Doctor Emil Fujikawa

Player: Ray Harris

System: Traveller, Classic Edition/Version - Added modifications from MegaTraveller and houserules.
Campaign: Operation: PALADIN

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein 

Circa: 2013-2015

Origins: The following tale of Emil Fujikawa's creation comes directly from Ray, the player. Take it away Ray: 

"When I started gaming with Adam, I had considered myself a veteran RPG player. My experience gaming was almost exclusively Dungeons & Dragons 3.5, Pathfinder, and homebrews (which used D&D as a baseline to recreate some anime or video game). Oh how wrong I was. Although I claimed to be an experienced gamer, I hadn't played in a game that shared in nearly any of the characteristics that Operation: Paladin would in its roughly three year run.
Dr. Fujikawa was my first character for a sci-fi campaign. Despite my fascination with Sci-Fi movies and TV that went back to Stargate and ST:TNG, I had no idea what to expect from the Traveller RPG. What I did understand was that intelligence and caution with just a little bit of daring usually saved the day. So that was what I tried to build into my character.

I decided that I wanted to be a scientist with a focus in Robotics but as I stepped through the character creation system with Adam, I lost sight of my desire and finished three terms of Scientist with only 1 point in Robotics. (At this point, I would like to highlight just how unfamiliar I was with sci-fi games, because I was creating a robotics expert with only the basic understanding of computers that is granted to a character by the fact that I was counting Earth as my homeworld). I started a second career as a Scout in order to round out my squishy Scientist a bit, only to find myself dead. I had failed the Survival Roll of my first term as a Scout and was feeling disheartened as I was starting to like the collection of skills and stats that would become Dr. Fujikawa. Adam too sensed the potential in my nascent character and offered to make it so that that my Scientist/Scout didn't die, but rather (homebrewed chart roll) was captured (homebrew chart roll) on an alien planet by the (homebrewed chart roll) aggressive and violent Ithklur.

This fateful encounter wound up doing two things for this collection of skills and stats to make it into a character. Firstly, I picked a skill that I would get to enhance because I was using it exhaustively during my capture. This would be my Robotics. I stayed alive during my captivity because I was performing forced labor, repairing the robots that my captors used. Secondly, it established that I was on the frontier, someplace where I might be captured by a hostile alien species. That got me thinking, not about how I would get out of this mess, but about how I got into this mess.

Adam was still in the middle of explaining how I was captured and who my captors were, but I was barely listening. My mind was thinking about how a respected Roboticist from Earth would find his way to the space boonies so that he could get captured, be listed as dead, and eventually get freed and reclaim his second lease on life on some backwater space station in Spica Sector. (This is why one of my favorite t-shirts reads, in the classic Traveller font, “You haven't lived until you've died... during character creation.”) Instead of listening to Adam's description of who the Ithklur were and why they might want to hold me captive, I was coming up with a reason for my character to be on the run from very dangerous people.

Before the day was out, I was talking to Adam about my ideas of how Dr. Fujikawa was unintentionally involved in a conspiracy to assassinate the Emperor and replace him with a robotic double. Adam explained how difficult that would be because of the state of robots in Traveller. Basically, robots in Traveller were more R2-D2 than Data and even a C-3PO, without the gold paint, would be a high end model. So I set out to explain in my backstory how my character would be involved in the creation of a fairly rare and possibly illegal model of robot called a pseudo-biological. A model of robot that, thanks to a duplicate 'lab ship' benefit roll, I would start the game in possession of. A couple of weeks later, we started the first session and a couple of weeks after that I gave Adam my full backstory."

Backstory: The full backstory as written and created by Ray with minor adjustments by me to fit it into the setting and story of the campaign:

Dr. Fujikawa's story starts while he was attending Neo Tokyo University getting his doctorate. 

He becomes smitten with a pretty lady, Anna Maria Romanov, who was able to wreck his thesis by talking his robot into a logical failure, multiple times. Eventually they hit it off and she helped him finish his thesis and graduate. It turns out her parents worked at a big time robotics corporation and hired him to work on various projects that all pertained to making a robot seem more like a human.

Eventually, he decides to ask Anna to marry him and she says yes. Unfortunately, they don't have the time to actually get married yet as he gets this big assignment to make a pseudo-biological robot. Luckily, Anna's degree was in art design so they get to work together as she is able to design and create the prototype robot body, while he is putting all of his work from the last 10 years together to create the robot's brain. They finish the robot prototype just before this big tech conference and finally get married. Anna reveals that the robot, "Maria", is physically a duplicate of her, because she has been keeping its design a secret from him as a sort of wedding present.

Then as they are due to leave for their honeymoon space cruise the next day, Anna pulls him aside and plays a recording for him. The recording reveals that Anna was a spy who was assigned by 'her parents' to get Dr. Fujikawa to ultimately build a robot that could pass as human that would be used in a plot to gain control of the highest ranks of government. She was supposed to turn him so that he would join the project willingly but he inadvertently turned her so that she wound up working against the plot. Anna was taking the robot's place and would stall for as long as she could so that he could get away.

The Anna that was with him was actually Maria and he had the only copy of the code and designs to build a new pseudo-biological. They were to get on a lab ship that was newly purchased and find a contact in SolSec (Solomani Security - Space CIA) who would protect them. The contact gets him into the Scout service so that he can disappear somewhere along the frontier, only he actually does disappear when he gets captured by the Ithklur of the Hive Federation. When he is later rescued by the Scouts, he has to recover what is left of his life, while wandering the passages of Bussard Reach space station, at least until he answers a post for a ship to travel to someplace called the Shallows.

Overview: "Throughout the next three years of play there would be many moments that stood out to me as touchstone moments in Dr. Fujikawa's life. From witnessing the death(?) of an NPC that gave him an inkling of understanding into why people had religion, to defeating an Aslan in mock combat by way of an exploding holo-drone, to participating in the arrest of the villain's most helpful minion, a fellow PC."

The Highlights:

"However, the moment that stands out the most to me is when I worked with another PC to infiltrate a Military Weapons Manufacturer and steal the evidence that we would need to arrest the main villain of the story. We had learned that one of the villain's primary lieutenants was an executive at this Government contracted weapons manufacturer. I had tried to hack into their systems but apparently having sensitive information about troop deployments meant that they had good firewalls, so I went to scout the building out and see if I could access an on-site terminal.

I went in claiming to be the parent of a new hire but bailed as soon as I saw the level of security at the front door. I was expecting a couple of overworked security guards tired of working the night shift. What I got was a couple of alert, physically fit guards that were part of a heavily-armed mercenary outfit which came out after the metal detector/x-ray scanner that was built into the front door alerted them that the woman who was pretending to be my wife wasn't what she said she was (that being a Human being). So, we got out of there as fast as we could, meeting back up with the rest of the team and I told them that the mission was a bust.

Having seen first hand how well defended the installation was, I was sure that there was no way we could get in without heavy losses. I argued passionately for hours with the others that getting the info from this location wouldn't be worth it, that we could find the same information stored elsewhere that would be less heavily fortified. I was out numbered. Everyone else insisted that it had to be here. This location was the only place that we could be certain was tied to one of the villain's lieutenants. If we turned back now it would throw out weeks of research and travel to determine the identity of this lieutenant and whoever else we could get to almost certainly wouldn't have the same kind of access to the villain's plans. So I relented. 

The other players changed my mind. I said that we would have to go immediately before the news of my attempted infiltration would bring reinforcements. Everyone scrambled to put a plan together to get me and one other player into the building. As desperate as we were to get this info, I didn't want to risk too many people, especially as most of the players were not combat inclined. That was how I wound up crawling through the sewers to reach a power junction terminal that granted me limited access to the building's security features so that one of my allies could infiltrate the building, access this corrupt executive's office and recover sensitive information from the computer and safe. After that I remember riding something down a sewer pipe that led out to a drainage vent so that we could jump over to our ship. The vessel was waiting for us and flew out of there with the planetary authorities hot on our tail.

This was the single most daring thing that I had done throughout the entire campaign and it held up the premise that I started the campaign with, that intelligence and caution with just a little bit of daring saved the day."

Legacy: A planned sequel to Operation: PALADIN never fully got underway and I haven't run a long term Traveller campaign since this one. The end result is Fujikawa  -who survived and had a solid epilogue in the original game- has not been seen since the Operation: PALADIN campaign ended.

In a twist I couldn't be happier about, Ray and my friend Will (who played the oft mentioned Belarus Hosta in Operation: PALADIN) are currently running a prequel campaign set some 15 years before ours. While Fujikawa doesn't appear, it details how the villain of Operation: PALADIN rose to his position of power and put his plans in place. 

Game Info: Dr. Emil Fujikawa

Species: Human – Solomani

Age: 34 years old.  Born July 25, 1061 IC/5579 AD

Height: 5'10”  Weight: 158 lbs  Appearance: Blue Eyes, Brown Hair

Homeworld: Earth


Armor Value: 7/0   Hits: 4/5

Scientist (Roboticist): 3 Terms / Scout 1 Term.

Special Assignment: every term


Robotics 4, Robot Ops 2, Gravitics 2, Electronics 2, Computer 7, Sensor Ops 4, Mechanical 2, Navigation 2, Engineering 1, Computer AI 2, Laser Weapons 2, Vacc Suit 2, Stealth 1, Grav Vehicle 2, Pilot 2, Forward Observer 1, Instruction 2, Jack of All Trades 2, Liason 3, Demolitions (in training), Handgun (in training)

Special Items: “Maria”, an Android. “The Turing”, an Advanced Lab Ship.


Info Pad, Comm-Comp, Robotics Tools, Liquid Body Armor, Laser Carbine, Personal Drone, Maps of Spica Sector, Heads-Up Display, Wireless Download, Signal Jammer, Body Pistol, Knife, Coral Chunks, Sub-Basement External HD

Credits: 55,140

Next up we travel to that galaxy long ago and far, far away to meet a tough Mandalorian mercenary with a rather droll origin. This is the way of FLEETO WOFF

Barking Alien

Saturday, January 9, 2021

31 Days / 31 Characters - 'DUSTY' DIBBS

I've only ever run one ongoing campaign in the Western genre, The Legend of Boot Hill. Strangely, while I've mentioned it on this blog a few times, I've never dedicated an entire post to it. I'll need to remedy that sometimes this year.

I ran The Legend of Boot Hill campaign way back in 1979 or 1980 and it was so perfect, such a great campaign, that I can't imagine I'll ever match or surpass the pure awesomeness of that game. If I can't see running a game that good again, why bother?

Additionally, while I don't dislike Westerns, my interest in them doesn't come close to my interest in many other genres. The end result is that the pull to run a Western just isn't strong enough to overcome the fact that I don't feel I could do it justice anyway. 

All that being true, there is the case of Dane 'Dusty' Dibbs and his tales of the Odd West...

Character: Virgil Dibbs

AKA: 'Dusty'

Player: David Cotton

System: Odd West - A Homebrew system of my own creation. 
Campaign: The Adventures of 'Dusty' Dibbs

Gamemaster: Adam Dickstein 

Circa: 2010-2012

Origins: Sometime around late 2009 or early 2010 I was discussing RPGs with my good friend David Cotton (who passed away in 2020) and the conversation turned toward games we'd always wanted to play or run but hadn't for whatever reason. There were very few I could think of honestly since, as I've mentioned before, if I want to run a game I do. I find a way. 

The closest thing was a Western game, one like my old Boot Hill-But-Not game from nearly 30 years prior. I told him all the reasons I conveyed to you in the opening of this post. Funny enough, David said he'd love to try a Wild West game, especially if it were crossed over with other genres as I have described my Legend of Boot Hill game being. 

The next time a free game day came up, one where we weren't scheduled to run or play any of our regular campaigns, Dave and I sat down to play a homebrew I'd put together for that very occasion. I dubbed it 'Odd West'. Just me as GM and him as the sole player and PC. It went really well and over the next two years whenever there was a glitch in the usual schedule, turned to Odd West.

The character himself is largely inspired by real life African American US Marshal Bass Reeves, thought by many to be the basis for the Lone Ranger. His name was originally Dane Dibbs but his first name was changed to Virgil when we realized Dave already had a character with the name Dane. Funny enough, years later he would name his Mobile Suit Gundam RPG character Dane Bradley. Dave liked the name Dane I guess. 

There were really only half a dozen sessions of this 'series' but they were really cool, memorable, and yet another reason I miss Dave.

Backstory: Virgil Dibbs was born the son of two former slaves who escaped the South sometime around 1840, eventually making their way to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Dibbs would join the Union Army in the fight against the Confederates at the young age of 17 and impress both his White Commanding Officers and fellow Black Soldiers with his marksmanship, resourcefulness, and uncanny luck. 

Whispers and rumors of Dibbs' luck spread as only such stories can and before long many who saw the young man thought him to either be favored by angels or having made a deal with the devil himself. He would leap into a ravine without looking only to land in a convenient pile of soft leaves. He made shots to keen for the Human eye at too far a distance. Riding last among his unit, his horse would clear terrain that threw the riders of horses but a moment behind him. How had they not seen that ditch? How had it not felled Dibbs?

Following the Civil War, one of his former commanders, now a US Marshal, introduced Dibbs to a man named Wilfred Wesley, a law enforcement officer of the US government in charge of a rather secretive branch that dealt with the paranormal. Wesley had collected numerous accounts of Dibbs and his lucky escapes, impossible aim, and nick-of-time saves. Believing Dibbs to be among 'The Gifted', Wesley offered him a job as a special sort of lawman. Dibbs agreed on two conditions: A portion of his pay went to help his family and their community back in Philadelphia and Virgil had some say in which assignments he undertook. Wesley agreed and rest in history. Well...legend...

Overview: The adventures of Dusty Dibbs all began the same way...I would open with Dibbs walking or riding into a town as I spoke a narration in the form of a letter to Dusty from Mr. Wesley. The narration would detail the place Dibbs was heading to and the reason why. Something along the lines of, "Mr. Dibbs, I hope this letter finds you well. I am writing because the owners and lumber workers at the Pine Bay Logging Company have reported a most unusual and hazardous animal in the vicinity of their camps, one that seems consciously determined to upset the White and Red Pine industry vital to our nations' development..."

Dibbs would then investigate, often befriending at least one person directly connected to the situation and with their aid, get to the source of the problem and attempt to solve it. On one occasion that involved fighting a 'Timber Baron' and his thugs as well as the 'Fearsome Critter' (a class of North American folklore creature) whose home territory they'd disturbed. In another instance he had to appease the Rain Spirit of the local Indigenous People who had become so upset it was flooding a section of the Great Lakes Region with an unending downpour. 

The Highlights:

I remember that the first session - the aforementioned scenario with a logging camp under attack by a Hugag - was reminiscent of an outdoor 'Die Hard'. Dibbs started by avoiding the owner of the camp and his heavies, periodically hunting them down and picking them off one by one as the Hugag wrecked the logging operation all around them.

I remembering doing a ton of research for the second (maybe third?) session we ran, which involved a 'Thunder Spirit' of the Kickapoo tribe. A week of torrential rain that was flooding Lake Eerie and a town along its coast was attributed to the anger of this otherwise benevolent entity. Dibbs apparently had some positive dealings with Native Americans in his Civil War days and was considered a friend to the local Kickapoo. It turns out a misguided young man had complained to birds in the area about the lakeside town. The birds conveyed his message to the sky and the Thunder Spirit enacted revenge of the young man's behalf. In the end, Dibbs had to protect the man from the townsfolk while also getting him to apologize to the birds and spirit for blowing things out of proportion. A lesson was learned by all. 

Legacy: As I've already said, doing a Western the way I want to isn't easy but is extremely rewarding when it works. It's hard to convey the balance between the real and the supernatural I am envisioning when I set up to do a Wild West campaign. 

Dibbs hasn't been seen since 2012 and my other Western campaign concepts in triple that time (except the Red Rider - more on him later this month). Perhaps that should be reconsidered. Maybe there is a future for this peculiar vision of the past. 

Game Info: Odd West, the game I used to run this, was a homebrew, a strange mixture of D6 dice pools and Poker. I looked for my notes but couldn't find anything showing the system. As best as I can recall, the key element of the character mechanics-wise would be coming up with a way to invoke his 'luck power', either by giving him 'Luck Points' that could be spend to alternate/manipulate the outcome of a situation or a limited number of rerolls per session. I prefer the former of course. 

Next up, set coordinates for Amaro Highport at Aequine and initiate the Jump Drive! Look who survived character creation! It's none other than Doctor EMIL FUJIKAWA! See you soon Traveller. 

Barking Alien