Thursday, July 21, 2016

The Voyage Home?

I've been a little disappointed in Star Trek of late.

July marks the 50th Anniversary of Star Trek, and what exactly do we fans have to show for it? In some ways, a lot.

There is a new film out now, a new TV series on the way, a ton of fan friendly merchandise out, and Star Trek Online is still going strong - Star Trek is back in a big way, and we are celebrating that with the 50th Anniversary. 


Right? Hmmm. Why doesn't it feel like a celebration?


  • I am completely uninterested in the new movie. 
  • The new Star Trek TV series with be available primarily on CBS/Paramount's subscription service.*
  • I am unlikely to sign up for the CBS All Access subscription service just to watch one show.
  • Especially if I don't know if that show will be any good. Based on the three recent films, I'm not encouraged.
  • CBS/Paramount has created new rules for the production of Fan Films. They seem very limiting, and in some aspects somewhat draconian based on what has been produced by Star Trek fans in the past. If you've seen the level of quality, and dedication already put in by people who love your IP, why restrict that so much?
  • The rules prevent, or at least severely curtail Star Trek Continues, Star Trek: The New Voyages, and of course, the much anticipated, and beleaguered Axanar.
  • Star Trek Online is boring. It's cool how they've added a lot of new material over the years, and the current Original Series and time travel expansion is kind of fun, but after a few weeks, I'm already tired of it.


This is it? This is the 50th Anniversary of the most beloved Science Fiction Television series of all time? SERIOUSLY?!?

Captain...long range sensors have detected an unknown object approaching.

Eh? Very well Mr. Barkley, ahead at full impulse. Bring us about, and put it on the main viewer.

Aye, sir. We have it.

Magnify.

...Captain...it's...





Red Alert! Red Alert! Shields up!


A NEW STAR TREK RPG?!? HOLY HORTAS ON HANSEN'S PLANET!!!

UPDATED: 07/22/16


Star Trek Adventures is a brand new, official Star Trek Role-Playing Game from a company called Modiphius Entertainment, makers of Achtung! Cthulhu, Mutant Chronicles, Conan, Infinity, and John Carter of Mars.

[OK, real talk - I don't know anything about these games, or very little to be sure. I've not played any of them because, they don't really fall in my areas of interest. Not my wheelhouse so to speak. I played the original Mutant Chronicles, but didn't really like it so much that I needed to check out the new one. Are any of these any good? Can someone chime in? I've heard good things about Achtung! Cthulhu - it is supposed to be really cool - but I've really heard nothing about any of these.]

The game uses Modiphius' house system which appears in all their games. All I know about it is it uses 2d20. That worries me a little, but maybe it's not that bad. I'll keep an open mind.

I don't have a lot of other information to detail here. I recommend following the link to Modiphius' website where they actually give quite a lot of information through the answering of a list of 18 questions.

The part that got me really excited was this:

1. Which Star Trek shows will the game cover?
 
"Star Trek Adventures will cover Star Trek the Original Series, Next GenerationDeep Space NineVoyager and Enterprise as well as all of the original and Next Generation films. It does not include the new reimagined films by JJ Abrams."

Well. Now you're talking.

It looks promising, if not for the game itself then as source material for a FASA, or Last Unicorn Games based Star Trek campaign. Plus crew miniatures! The point is, there will be new gaming products for Star Trek.

I really can't ask for more.

Happy Anniversary Star Trek! You are, and always shall be, my friend.

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Barking Alien


UPDATED: I had the please of talking to Chris Birch of Modiphius Entertainment via Facebook post today, as he came in to our Star Trek RPG Discussion Group there. Not only was he very nice, well spoken, and informative (within the parameters of what he can say at this juncture of course), but he conveyed an extremely important quality for me - he is a fan of Star Trek. He states, "I didn't want to fasten the Star Trek name to the 2D20 system. I wanted to make a great Star Trek game. The system has been adjusted/modified to fit Star Trek and not the other way around" - paraphrasing.

I'm feeling really good about this endeavor. Spring/Summer 2017 can't come soon enough.

Also - Duh! I just remember I have a good friend who works for Modiphius. LOL. A shout out to Lloyd Gyan, who expertly DID NOT TELL ME ABOUT THIS PROJECT!. That's right, somehow my pal kept the fact that he was working for a company doing a Star Trek RPG secret from me, Adam 'Starfleet or Die!' Dickstein. I'm impressed. They should either give this man a raise, a promotion, or transfer him to the British Intelligence service.


*The new Star Trek series will be available for viewing on Netflix for about 188 countries worldwide, but NOT the United States, and Canada. Wonderful. 


PS: There are two other really cool 50th Anniversary items coming out that I'm kind of excited about...


A new edition of the Star Trek Encyclopedia! Woohoo!










Star Trek - 50 Artists 50 Years








A book that collects the work of artists from around the world as well as famous fans, all contributing to an incredible visual array of posters, photos, sculptures, comic strips, textiles and much more to commemorate Star Trek's half-century of exploring the final frontier. 







Monday, July 18, 2016

Crossing The Streams

For those of you who don't know me well, or who don't frequent this blog too often, I'm a big Ghostbusters fan.

How big? Stay Puft Marshmallow Man big.

I've seen the original film at least three dozen times, seen the second one (which I'll admit isn't great) nearly a dozen times, watched every episode of the original animated series, 'The Real Ghostbusters' about three times each (some more than that), bought a number of the comic books, and I own both the Ultimate Visual History book, and the newly published Tobin's Spirit Guide.

I've GMed one major campaign, a half dozen one-shots, and co-GMed a campaign back in high school. You can search this site for info on those just by clicking on the Ghostbusters tag.

I really can't wait to run it again actually. Thing is, I'm not alone.







In a discussion on Facebook about the new Ghostbusters film, two of my good friends (both of whom had played in Ghostbusters games with me on separate occasions) noted their preference for what we'd done over what Columbia Pictures decided would be a good idea.

I can't say I disagree.







I have not seen the new film. I don't intend to, at least until it's on Netflix, or something. I won't pay movie theater prices to see it. I have no interest.

There are those who will say it's because I'm a grumpy, old Ghosthead grognard, or worse a misogynist who can't except an all female cast. Such words hurt, or would if I cared one iota what the people who throw such words in my direction had to say.

My lack of interest in the film stems from two main factors.

First, it isn't set in the milieu of the original films. It's a reboot, and I don't like reboots. I don't like things that take away from the original work. I like things that add to the original work. An extension of the original IP, more material to expand the universe. Reboots tell me that the thing I liked, maybe even loved, didn't happen in favor of this new thing. Well screw you person trying to make money off of someone else's creativity. You aren't adding anything to the party.

The second reason I'm not interested in seeing this film is because I saw the trailer, several trailers in fact, and they just didn't entice me. A trailer is an advertisement. It is something designed to get you excited about a new film coming out. The trailers for this movie didn't achieve their objective. The jokes weren't funny, the acting seemed off, and the special effects looked cartoonish and overdone.

My entertainment budget is limited. I can't see every movie I'm interested in that comes out. Luckily, it helps when they make films I'm not interested in seeing.

At the same time, it saddens me when those movies are ones I've been waiting a long time to watch.


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Barking Alien









Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Player Profiles - David Concepcion

Finally!

For some time now I've been hoping to introduce a new series of posts entitled Player Profiles; a collection of write-ups on some of the wonderful people, and fantastic players I've had the privilege to know, and gamemaster for over the past 39 years.

It will be quite impossible to cover everyone - some friends I've lost touch with over the years, some have passed on - but given enough time, and with enough determination I should be able to introduce you all to the gamers that helped shape my love of the hobby.

If you don't see a write-up with your name, but you feel you should based on the premise of this series, do not despair. You simply haven't see one yet.

The honor of the first Player Profile goes to my dear friend David Concepcion.







 I met Dave in 10th grade, my first year at The High School of Art and Design in New York City. I met a number of my long time friends here, played some of the best (heck, the only) games I truly enjoyed as a player, and gamemastered the campaigns that would solidify my style of play. Though we didn't know it at the time, Dave would be instrumental in that development.

I'm not sure it was gaming that first brought us together as friends. Maybe it was. We had a lot of common interests. Comic books, Star Trek, Star Wars, the Beatles, Monty Python, Film in general, Anime, the Muppets,  and a host of other things.

Our first game together...that's tough. I know it was one I GMed, and he played in. It may have been Star Wars, or Star Trek. It was instrumental though in bringing us together as friends with similar outlooks, and the key to meeting many of the other people you'll see featured in later entries.

It was Dave who introduced me to William C., who introduced me to Champions. It was Dave who got together himself, Will, AJ, and myself to form a makeshift 'band' (jokingly called Near Miss). If it was something we wanted to do creatively, but we were unsure if we should, we would always leave the final, or tie-breaking vote to Dave because we knew he'd say yes.

Dave is what I would call, a good guy. A genuinely good Human being. He's easy to make friends with, and honestly hard not to like. He's creative, and thoughtful. Deeply thoughtful given the time to sort it all out, and I can appreciate that.

As a gamer, well as a player to start with, he brings a sense of his Humanity to the table that I've rarely seen elsewhere. His characters, all of them, are subtly nuanced with real people thinking, and real people emotions. They are not caricatures, but three-dimensional, living breathing people.

Sometimes that stops them from standing out when the rest of the group are playing over-the-top, action movie heroes. That's fine for Dave (and for me). He is a character actor. While he can certainly take a starring role, I remember once telling him, "You play the most amazing second-string characters I've ever seen."

His greatest, and most memorable PCs to me (at least) are:


AJ DeLorca, Leader of the Blue Dragons Valkyrie Squadron (Macross, Palladium)
Captain Logan Hendrix, USS Renown (Star Trek, FASA)
Chakagawa, The Wookiee Shaman (Star Wars - Homebrew)
David Nelson, Ghostbuster (Ghostbusters - WEG)
Davey 'Speed' Davidson, Super-speed prankster (Teenagers from Outer Space - RTG)
Omni, Leader of UNTIL's Project: UNITY (Champions, Hero Games)
Yoshiyuki Yamashita, Ronin turned Daimyo (Bushido, FGU)


What Dave brought to my games was charm, warmth, layers of perfectly crafted imperfection, wit, humor, and the idea that RPGs can go deeper.

Thanks Dave. Love you brother.


Now, David Concepcion in his own words...


"Who am I? I'm a writer going on 40-plus years of doing it, but to this day I still hate writing short paragraphs about who I am. Who I am is a long autobiography that I'm not best prepared to cover just yet. While I work better in short form writing (or even full length screenplays), short form misses too much of me, and my life.

Also, it often depends on my mood. I know my mood shouldn't affect my history, but it does affect how I look back on it. Right now the best I can say is that being a writer, I am a creator of things big and small; considering all I've been through in my life, I am a survivor. So there's definitely a yin-yang aspect to my life, and who I am. I try to stay positive but it is much, much harder than it used to be. Too much has gone on to keep me from keeping on the sunny side of things. Basically I'm a nice guy whose sense of humor was shanked with a broken bottle in a bar fight.

Having said that, there have been oases of peace in my life that have kept me going. Two of

them kind of merged for a decade or so: high school friends and role playing games. Going to an art school has been beneficial not only for the stuff I learned in classes, but for the close circle of friends I had all four years there. My closest circle of friends were role players. Our love of science fiction, and comic books found a natural outlet in games of superheroes, the Star Wars and Star Trek universes, and cyberpunk and steampunk scenarios. We were the Knights of the Breakfast Table, and if we weren't doing last night's homework five minutes before class, we were rolling d20s for the continuing of campaigns. Friends made through RPGs are still friends today, and have stood the test of time.

I think my favorite part of RPGs were the immersive theater aspects of storytelling involved in it, combined with the appreciation of living out sci-fi/fantasy films we loved, while creating our own thrills with multi-sided dice and the unlimited special effects budget of the mind. Playing in an Adam run campaign is often particularly fun because as a player (not just as a PC), I got to shape the story of the campaign more than usual. When Adam tells me his idea for a campaign/game, I usually get to ask what he needs for that piece. Somehow there's collaboration to find a character that not only fits, but enhances the nature of the drama.

Whether it be leading PCs (Federation Starfleet Captain Logan Hendrix; Yoshi Yamashita, a Ronin who turned Daimyo), or supporting PCs (Chakagawa, a Wookie “shaman”; a media jock/DJ playing street fixer undercover to get better stories), any of my actions have a great impact on the movement of the story arc and the game. It helps that Adam really listens to his players, and is ready to roll with the punches no matter what. His games have always been favorites of mine to be in as well as to watch the action around you."

A special thanks to David for participating, and writing this up.

Ready Player Two?

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Barking Alien


*My one regret with this post is I couldn't find a clear picture of Dave in a hat. I have always been envious of his ability to look good in hats. Seriously. He's a hat kind of guy. I think, "Man, I look so goofy in hats. You know who looks good in hats? Dave.
 
 
 

 

Monday, July 4, 2016

Round One - FIGHT!

Hello internet, and welcome to Barking Alien for July, 2016!

A Happy Canada Day (July 1st) to my viewers up North, and a Happy Independence Day (July 4th) to those of you in the United States of America!

For July I'm lifting my self-imposed ban on discussing Sci-Fi, and Supers, opening the floodgates for talking about pretty much anything. Also, going to try for more, shorter posts this month. No guarantees, or promises, but that's the goal.

This post for example is about Combat.

I don't really have a definitive point to make, or even an objective with this post beyond, 'Here's how I feel about Combat in RPGs. Let's talk about it.'

Let's begin by pointing out the 800 pound gorilla in the room...





Minus all that power armor of course.



...Most RPGs have a heavy focus on combat.

No groundbreaking observation there, but it deserves to be mentioned at the start of this for the sole purpose of setting the tone for the rest of the post. This is a truism, a point of fact. Like science, and unlike belief, it can not be unproven, argued with, or denied.

Is it the focus of all RPGs? No.

Is it the focus of every campaign in RPGs where combat is normally a major factor? No.

Must it be the focus of our hobby by the very nature of both RPGs and combat? Ooh...now we be getting all philosophical up in here.

Now, what exactly do I mean by that last statement? Well, let's break it down shall we?

RPGs are largely improvisational storytelling with rules, geared toward action/adventure themes. RPGs about getting a job as an assistant copyright lawyer for a small, text book publishing house, however exciting you may feel that is, have just never caught on.

RPGs are descended from war games. They are about warriors, soldiers, mercenaries, and other fighting types going to battle against others of their kind, or other combat oriented opponents such as monsters, aliens, robots, or whathaveyou. Even when playing a thief, or a wizard, majors concerns are given to combat effectiveness in the form of special 'sneak attack' abilities, or damage causing spells.

With these conceits established, and for the purposes of this post (at the very least) accepted, I can finally get into the arena of opinion.

If combat is a central (if not essential) element of RPGs, why the heck is it so damn complex, and boring most of the time?





Oh no you didn't.
 
 

That's right, I said it. You heard me. Boring.

The majority of RPG systems out there make combat far too mechanical. What do I mean? I mean that it is reliant on rules, and the roles of dice, and not on any real input from the player, or even the GM in many cases.

Did you come up with a truly creative tactic, a 'smart move' as we're want to say? Does it matter? Isn't it just a plus one here, or an additional die added to your pool there? What influence does your creativity really have on combat?

After coming up with a brilliant battle plan, you get a +1 or +2 from some feat or other, and you still fail the roll, meaning all that planning was meaningless. Sure, that random element of rolling the dice can be part of the excitement, but I've often ended up feeling (and seeing players who feel) like they were just brilliant for nothing. The creativity of the player/PC is not nearly as effective in a fight as having the best stats, or the 'right build' (*puke*).

Even more importantly, what does it feel like?

One of the things that turned me off to Margret Weis Productions Marvel Heroic game over time was the feeling that a bunch of dice were being rolled against a bunch of other dice, with no real thought, or emotion invested in what it all meant in game. It was just a collection of numbers being assembled against other numbers. Was that a roundhouse punch, or an energy blast? Is there a difference? Combat in that game (and in many others), which is a huge part of each session because of the genre (Superheroes) feels so abstract it might as well not include saying anything. Just roll, compare, and note stress damage, or who won.

What can we do about this?

Well, I've discussed before how the GM can jazz up the in-game descriptions, and even conditions to some extent, but I don't know if that's enough. Does that fundamentally make the activity of getting to, and partaking in combat sequences more exciting?

The fundamental issue for me really does come down to mechanics for the most part. The most exciting, memorable battles I'm been in as a player, and ran as a GM were largely despite the mechanics, not because of them. It was the GM, not the game, that injected some amazing description, or made a rule on the fly to explain how the participants of the conflict, and the objects, and terrain around them were effected.

That's how it should be right? Sure...but then why do we have so many pages of rules in so many games dedicated to combat when the best part of it is coming from the players, and GMs. All a thousand combat options seems to do is slow down combat.

What's the alternative? Am I advocating we all just wing it? Should combat be purely narrative? Well, no...I don't think it works to have it be all narrative. What's to stop the PCs, or the GM from just doing whatever they want all the time. There has to be some rules, right?

I discussed this subject with a friend today, and although we didn't get to address it at length, it was interesting to note that his first words when I said, "Do you sometimes feel like combat in RPGs is..."

"Dull?" he replied.

Yeah. Dull, and sometimes tedious.

If combat is going to be such a big part of what we do, how do we make it continually interesting, without resorting to a purely narrative approach?

Any ideas?

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Barking Alien





Thursday, June 30, 2016

BUSHIDO* - THE DESTINY OF SHINTO

My good friend, and Google Hangouts GM Keith Jacobson requested a Campaigns I Have Know entry on my most memorable Japanese mythology/folklore inspired Fantasy game. Funny thing is, one of the fellows in that game just recently mostly a 'Remember This' entry on my wall on Facebook.

Well that's too much of a coincidence to ignore.

I've run a number of games set in a mythical, feudal Japan, but my preeminent one was Shinto No Unmei, or 'The Destiny of Shinto', back in 1988-89. I used Bushido, the Japanese Medieval Fantasy RPG classic by Fantasy Games Unlimited, although modified as noted below.


Campaigns I Have Known
Proudly Presents...
 
BUSHIDO
SHINTO NO UNMEI


The Mechanical and Creative Influences
for this campaign:
 
 
Bushido (FGU)
Land of the Rising Sun (FGU)
The Dagger of Kumi (One of my all time favorite animated films)
 


Title: BUSHIDO - SHINTO NO UNMEI

System: Bushido* (Fantasy Games Unlimited) - Additional Rules from Land of the Rising Sun (FGU), and House Rules.

*In truth, this campaign used a kitbashed system of my own making that was about 80% Bushido. The remaining 20% was a mixture of simplifying what was in the core rules, adding bits from Land of the Rising Sun (also from FGU), and a few house rules. The overall effect was, as I recall, very detailed while remaining highly functional.

 
Circa: 1988-1989. There were roughly a dozen sessions, each lasting 8-10 hours. For reasons related to scheduling conflicts, we were never every to complete the climatic, big finish to the campaign.

Sad panda.

Player Base: There were five players, all male, ages 18-20. All the players were present for all the sessions, and unlike a lot of my other games, there were no guest players, or characters.

Characters: I remember most of the characters from this game quite well, which in, and of itself is very interesting. Granted, this game was not as long ago as some of the others I've covered in the recent past, but I think it's more than that. This campaign was just that good.


Katsuhiko Otomo - Gakusho Shinto Priest / Shugenja (Played by Joe V.)

Katsuhiko Otomo was a Shinto Priest, or Gakusho, who initially hid the secret truth that his priesthood was a front for his real vocation - a Shugenja/Mage.

If I remember correctly, Katsuhiko was indeed trained as a Shinto Priest from the time he was a very young man. His ancestors came to him in a terrible dream, wherein they charged him with a quest to find a Ronin Samurai (Yoshi Yamashita) whose destiny would shape the future of Japan. Otomo was gifted/cursed with mystical powers to help him achieve this goal.

Katsuhiko was always the voice of calm, and good sense when the world around the PCs seemed to be spiraling into madness. At the same time, he was the most Human of the player characters in attitude, manner, and deed. He could be scared, get frustrated, and liked good food, drink, and a warm place to sleep when it was available.

Otomo avoided violence whenever possible, but could fight quite well with his Tetsubo (a knobbed bo staff/club), and various mystical powers, and spells.


Moki No Shingun - Neko Hengeyokai Kensai (Played by Eric F.)

Moki No Shingun (Moki of the March - Specifically 'Shingun' refers to a 'military march' or 'the coming of an army') was a strange young man with green eyes, and an oddly, eerily graceful way of moving. When first encountered, he was thought to be a commoner Bushi, a local warrior for hire. 'Moki' had developed a bit of regional renown, as he had defeated several bandit gangs with his enchanted sword, a very old tachi blade.

Like Nakagawa, and Otomo, Moki decided to join Yoshi Yamashita on his journey back home following the death of his uncle the Daimyo. It was implied that Moki may have had another reason for going as well. Something like, "I've been meaning to head that way. I would travel with you if you wouldn't mind the company."

Over time we learn that Moki No Shingun was a man of many secrets, including that fact that he was not really a man at all. Moki was a Hengeyokai, an animal spirit (in this case a cat) who could assume Human form. You could also become a seemingly normal cat, and with some effort and expenditure of Ki, a hybrid form with varying degrees of transformation**.

In addition to supernatural abilities from his status as a cat spirit such as amazing reflexes, balance, night vision, and stealth rivaling Nakagawa's, Moki was a Kensai, or 'Sword Saint'. His enchanted tachi was not enchanted at all. Rather, he spread that rumor to hide the fact that he had a number of Ki powers that could be channeled through his sword (or which needed a sword as a focus).

In one particularly awesome sequence, Moki and Shogu had taken a short cut through a forested area to come out behind an enemy. Yoshi and Katsu had taken the long way around the woods by traveling the main road. When Yoshi and Katsu arrived to enage the villain, they were surprised to have gotten there first.

It was taking an unusually long time for Moki and Shogu to get through the forest, which was peculiar since this was the short cut! Eventually, Moki used the Spirit Sight of his cat eyes to see that a curse had been placed on the forest. As they moved through it their speed bled away. Like a dream where you run, but go no where they were quite literally 'wasting time'.

Evoking the power of his Ki, and placing part of his spirit into his sword, Moki sliced through the curse, seemingly swinging at nothing, but in actuality 'cutting their time in half' (the player's description/explanation). Shogu and Moki then burst from the woods behind the enemy forces to see Yoshi and Katsu approaching from down the road.

Moki was an excellent swordsman, possessed of numerous special abilities as mentioned, and a decent hand-to-hand combatant. With not as proficient with martial arts as the other warriors in the group, he made up for it with remarkable speed, acrobatic skill, and the occasional claw attack.

Moki's full story is never completely revealed unfortunately. My idea, based on clues, suggestions, and other elements of the story was when the enemy forces summoned supernatural aid to assistance them with their plans, the Shinto gods sent Moki to level the playing field as it were.


Shogu Nakagawa - Profession Unknown - Definitely NOT a Ninja
(Played by Nelson M.)

Hailing from a small fishing village on the river, Nakagawa claimed to be the last survivor of a flood that had killed his family. Impressed with the wandering Ronin Yoshi Yamashita (and he with Shogu), the two quickly became allies if not friends (not right away anyway). Nakagawa decided to tag along with Yamashita on his journey to avenge his uncle, the former Daimyo.

Shogu had an interesting skill set that made him at once very useful, and at the same time difficult to categorize by way of profession, and station in the setting's society. At first he seemed to be a beggar from a fishing village that had fallen on tragedy. He could fight  very well unarmed using martial arts, or with a sword like a Bushi (a Warrior, or Soldier). He was quick, stealthy, knowledgeable about the woods, and knew various pyrotechnic tricks that lead some to believe he was a Shugenja.

Eventually, the group determined Nakagawa was an entertainer; an actor or performer of some kind trying to make a living off his skills. One thing was certain of course - since Ninjas were fictitious bogeymen long gone from the world, Shogu was definitely NOT a Ninja (an ongoing, in game line said as a running gag by one player, or another at least once every session).

The truth of course was that Shogu Nakagawa was very much a Ninja. He was the last surviving member of the Dark River Ninja Clan. A mysterious patron had hired the Dark River Ninjas to defend the Daimyo against an attack that was known to be taking place later that evening. The Dark River Clan, the Daimyo, and all his bodyguards, and forces present were killed in the attack.

It is unknown if the patron was honestly sending the Dark River Clan to help the Daimyo, but they were overpowered, or if it was all an ambush set up by the mystery employer.

Nakagawa primary weapon was a Tanto (Japanese samurai short bladed sword, or long knife). He would later use a Ninjato / Tanto combination, oddly mirroring Yamashita's occasional use of the traditional samurai pairing of the Katana and Wakizashi.

Nakagawa used a mixed martial arts style that was part Kung-Fu, part Jujitsu, and part Karate. He perfected the 'Flying Dragon Kick' - a devastating, Ki-enhanced, running leap kick.


Yoshiyuki Yamashita - Ronin Samurai (Played by David C.)

Youngest male of the Yamashita Clan, nephew of the great Daimyo Masao Yamashita, Yoshi was off delivering a message to Yamashita allies when his uncle's fortress-like home was attacked, and invaded. Word reached him while he was passing through a small town on his way back.

With his uncle dead, and his father having passed on when he was a boy, Yoshiyuki was now technically Daimyo of the region. However, as he was not present when the Daimyo and his fortress fell, those familiar with his clan colors and emblem, but who do not recognize him immediately by his face, assumed he was Ronin - a masterless samurai at best, and at worst a coward.

For a short while he hid his identity, and excepted the Ronin label to avoid the culprits of the attack targeting him before he could get to the bottom of what had transpired. Surviving brigands, and assassins on his way back home, Yoshi befriended a wandering priest (Katsuhiko Otomo), a vagrant performer (Shogu Nakagawa), and a peasant bushi ( ) who all decided to join him on his journey.

Evidence at the site of what could only be described as a massacre seemed to point toward foreign invaders, but the clever Yoshi, with the help of his new friends soon realized this was a ruse.

Whomever the attackers were that slew his family, his clan-mates, and sent the region into chaos, they were not Buddhists, Chinese, or anything of the sort. They were Japanese, trying to frame foreigners, and they had brought with them a supernatural element. They were evil, pure and simple, and they needed to be vanquished.

While skilled with the paired Katana, and Wakizashi combo traditionally attributed to samurai, Yoshi more commonly utilized an Odachi, a long, or great sword that predated the Katana. This was especially true after he found the enchanted Odachi dubbed 'Ashita' (Japanese for Tomorrow).

Yoshi was also adept at martial arts, focusing on karate, judo, and an early form of aikido. He created his own close quarters fighting style patterned after Chinese Kung-Fu which he dubbed Mongoose style. It primarily consisted of very quick, short punches that started low on the opponent's body and then moved upwards towards the neck, face, and head.


Synopsis: I'm sure you can piece together a good bit of the campaign from the character write-ups, but to consolidate and simplify...

While on a mission to deliver a treaty agreement to his clan's potential new allies, Yoshi Yamashita, youngest adult male of the Yamashita clan, discovers that his uncle Masao, the regional Daimyo, was killed along with most of family, and loyal retainers and samurai.

Yoshi immediately vows to return home, only to discover rumors have been spread explaining his absence at the battle that destroyed the Yamashita Clan as cowardice.

Travelling in disguise as a Ronin, Yoshi crosses paths with a wandering Shinto Priest named Katsuhiko Otomo, a strange Bushi called Moki No Shingun, and a beggar, and performer named Shogu Nakagawa. Together they journey to the fortress home of Yoshi's uncle, which begins an intricate mystery as to who attacked, and why.

Without the Daimyo's influence, the area quickly erupted into chaos, with numerous enemies, and allies alike attempting to take control of the countryside. Only the Ikeda Clan, old and wise, stayed out of the competition - ready to assist whomever came out on top with the transition form the old order of the day to whatever new status quo resulted. Eventually clues, and later hard evidence pointed to the Ikeda clan as the instigators and orchestrators of the entire predicament. Also, it seemed they had a supernatural ally, a Witch who may have been possessed by a Demon, or been a Demon herself.

With the help of his allies and the pure nature of his heart, Yoshi Yamashita showed his true identity as a man of loyalty, honor, and leadership. He assembled a volunteer army of mercenaries, commoners, and peasants and lead them against the Ikeda clan, and it's allies.

The final battle between Yoshi and the leader of the Ikeda clan, as well Moki and Katsuhiko versus the Demon-Witch, and Shogu of the Dark River Ninjas against the leader of the Fire Mountain Ninjas was, sadly, never run. It is one of my deepest, hell one of my only, gaming regrets.


***

In addition to the Action/Adventure, cinematic nature of this campaign, it was also one of my first to go a little deeper, and tackle social, political, cultural, and even religious ideas. While there is definitely a focus on the hero's journey here, The Destiny of Shinto was also about more than that.

Much of the game had a sub-context that asked, "What happens when society, and culture changes - whether from within, or due to outside influences?"

Are we better off changing, and adapting with it? Do we fight for our traditions, and beliefs?

Although set at an indeterminate period in Japan's history, it is definitely a time one gage with careful observation. Japan is aware of Chinese, and the threat of 'foreign invaders'. Buddhism is encroaching on the old way of Japan's Shinto culture, and religion.

The death of Masao Yamashita and the 'old' Yamashita clan must be avenged by Yoshi, who seeks to carry on the memory and traditions of his ancestors. At the same time, Yoshi adapts to the changing times better than his predecessors. He does things his way. He doesn't lose who he is, or where he came from, but he doesn't dwell in the past either.


Appendix N: The source material found in Bushido, and Land of the Rising Sun was actually some of the best, most accurate material on Medieval/Feudal Era Japan ever produced for RPGs. Lee Gold, who wrote much of Land of the Rising Sun, would later go on to do GURPS Japan, another fantastic resource.

In addition to the games themselves I found information, and inspiration in several books on Japanese culture, mythology, folklore, and religion in a number of libraries, and Japanese bookstores (only one of which remains in New York City - Kinokuniya Books. Sadly Asahiya Books, and Zen Oriental Bookstore are both closed).

Additional sources include Osprey Books, Akira Kurosawa films, and numerous Japanese Anime/Manga, most especially The Dagger of Kamui, a huge favorite of mine. It really set the tone for much of the game.

Finally, I had two very special consultants on the campaign. One was a young Japanese woman I was friends with who was born in Yokohama (I believe). She only lived in New York during the school year, then returned to Japan in the Summer. I think her father was a diplomat, or something. The second was a friend of mine who was half-Japanese. He was an aficionado of Samurai era Japan.

Bonus Features:

I wanted to use as much, and as accurate Japanese naming as I could, which wasn't easy, but my 'consultants' really helped in that regard. That's true for any of the Japanese words we used, from meaning to pronunciation.

Dave and Nelson had been in a few games together.
Dave and Eric had been in a number of games together.
Eric and Nelson had been in games together.
Joe had been in games with Dave.

This was the first campaign I can recall where all four of them were PCs in the same game, at the same time.

I didn't own a copy of Bushido at the time, nor Land of the Rising Sun. I borrowed a friend's copies in order to develop the campaign.

The phrase, "He's NOT a Ninja", in regard to Nelson's character Shogu, began honestly. The other PCs really didn't think he was playing a Ninja, but couldn't figure out what his profession was. When it became clear he was indeed a Ninja, we established in game that Yoshi had convinced himself of the delusion that his good friend could not possibly be one of those terrible, and mythical assassins.

Anytime some plays a Ninja, or Ninja-like character in any games, of any genre, and part of the conceit is that they are hiding that fact, the phrase "He's NOT a Ninja" is uttered by in the exact same way we said it back in 1988-89.

**Moki No Shingun could change himself into a 'Catman', though more often changed only a part of his body. He was more likely to be a man with cat eyes, clawed fingers, padded feet, or Anime style cat ears. I only recall once, or twice where he did a full, hybrid transformation.

I apologize for the lateness of this post.

Originally done on June 28th, and edited on the 30th, I meant to post it that Thursday due fell asleep. I've not been sleeping well again recently - more so than usual I mean - and it's thrown off my posting plans. Hopefully this was entertaining enough to be worth the wait.


ありがとう楽しい時過しなさい

AD
Barking Alien