Monday, March 20, 2017


In a comment on my previous post, Lord Blacksteel, King of The Tower of Zenopus (long may he reign) said:

"With all of your love for these things did you ever do any kind of Mekton - Trek crossover? I'm sure there's a way to do a Mecha-Trek game."

Oh there is. And I have...

It's been a while, both in terms of writing up one of my 'Campaigns I Have Known' entries, and thinking about this particular game. However, I think it's fitting that I put this entry up now, considering my current Anime RPG obsession. 

As is oft times the case, this needs a little set up...

In the early 1990's, the Iron Age of American comic books had fully set in, driving me away from the medium and fandom I'd loved all my life.

I moved toward my other interests, namely Anime, Manga, and of course tabletop RPGs. A few of my friends introduced me to other friends of theirs who shared a mutual interest in gaming, and Japanese pop culture. Before long I was gaming with a number of groups in a number of venues. One of the things all these games had in common [after a short while] was that they were all Anime influenced, inspired, or themed. 

One nerdy pursuit within my nerdy pursuits became Japanese tabletop RPGs, called TRPGs in Japan (in order to differentiate them from computer or video game based RPGs). I was fascinated (and still am) by RPGs made by Japanese creators for a Japanese audience. I put quite a bit of effort into finding, or ordering them, getting translations (as I did not speak, or read Japanese very well), as well as collecting Japanese gaming magazines.

At some point I found a Japanese book store in New York City that carried Fujimi Shobo's Dragon Magazine (nicknamed 'Doramaga', or just 'DM'). I started collecting it monthly. Much like it's American counterpart, the Japanese Dragon Magazine was ostensibly a gaming magazine, covering Japanese RPGs and card games. In truth however, most issues were more focused on short stories, and manga, some of which were game-related fiction. 

One very interesting, reoccurring title that caught my attention was a Science Fiction Space Opera Comedy novella, serialized over the course of numerous issues. The prose were in Japanese, and always accompanied by a few Manga style illustrations. Periodically it appeared to have game stats following the story, or in side bar boxes.

I eventually discovered that the story had started as a science fiction light novel, but fans of the series started submitting RPG rules, stat blocks, and such to the magazine using Fujimi Shobo's house system as a guide. The writer of the Paradise Fleet series, along with the editors of Dragon Magazine, eventually put all the rules together with background information, and published it as a full RPG.

Exactly when all this happened I am not entirely sure. That is to say, research and memory tell me that Paradise Fleet began sometime around 1988, but I don't think the first edition core rulebook was published until 1994. A second edition of the game, entitled 'Paradise Fleet Counterattack', came out in 2004. To my understanding, the game is currently out of print, but copies of 'Counterattack' can still be found in Japan.

I believe we played the game around 1990-1992. I know for a fact I did not have a rulebook. I never did. My friends and I were never able to get a hold of one. Instead, I used the rules and notes from Dragon Magazine, and fleshed out the missing mechanics with Mekton II, Cyberpunk 2013, and even a bit of MegaTraveller. 

The result...


Campaigns I Have Known
Proudly Presents...


Paradise Fleet RPG
Left - Core Rulebook 1988-1994
Right - Paradise Fleet Counterattack - 2nd Edition Core Rulebook, 2004


System: Paradise Fleet (Fujimi Shobo - 1988-1994), Modified and Supplemented by Mekton II (R. Talsorian Games - 1987)

I was only able to obtain parts of the Paradise Fleet RPG rules due to the nature of their release at the time, and the other obstacles noted above. Like frog DNA added to missing dinosaur gene-sequences, I used Mekton II to fill in gaps, and construct the starships, starfighters, and mecha (the latter of which were not present in the official RPG).

Additional supplemental material was adapted, and added to the game from Cyberpunk 2013, and MegaTraveller.

Yeah, this one was a real Frankenstein's monster, but it worked.

Circa: Here's where things get really tricky...I seem to recall running this between 1990 and 1992, though I am not positive exactly when I ran it. I remember certain players being a part of it who couldn't have been in the game given those years. At the same time, I know I didn't play it in high school. It was definitely a campaign I ran during my college years. 

Let's say is was 1990-1991.

There were two campaigns, run side-by-side and periodically crossing over into each other. 

The first campaign, the Main Story if you will, was about 24 sessions in length, with each session only being about 4, or 5 hours long. Sometimes a bit more.

The second campaign, the Side Story, ran for about 12 sessions, but each session was 6-8 hours long.

Gamemaster: ME! I was about 20-21 years old.

Player Base: The Main Story had four regular players, and two players who dropped in and out fairly often. I would say that the two part-timers were there for more than half of the sessions though. 

All were male, around 20-21 years old, of mixed background, and ethnicity (as were/are most of my campaigns).

The side story featured four regulars players, two male, and two female, who were older, probably about 23-25. Likewise mixed backgrounds.

Characters: Main Story

All the Player Characters in the story was around 20-25 years of age, just like the players.

Arges Bright, Corporate Alliance Cyborg Mecha Pilot (played by Pete H.)

A member of the Corporation Alliance military, Arges was a hot shot pilot paying off an unpayable debt to the CA for saving his life after a combat sortie went terribly wrong. 

Now a cyborg with super-fast reflexes, and increased endurance, Lt. Commander Bright is one of the lead mecha pilots in the experimental First Combined Operations Space Fleet, aka the 'Paradise Fleet'. He begins the game as the second-in-command of his squadron, but soon replaces the commanding officer when the latter is killed in action against a group of Holy Noble Nation renegades.

Arges seemed to have had a split personality. Out of his mecha he was jovial, fun-loving, warm, and quite gregarious. Once in the pilot seat he became an unstoppable killing machine. At one point he swore vengeance upon an enemy pilot for killing his friend, only to meet that same enemy some time later in a drinking establishment on a planet. Arges bought the guy a drink, and basically told him no hard feelings. In the following episode the two pilots met in space, Giant Robot-to-Giant Robot, and Arges relentlessly hunted the dude through an asteroid field vowing to give him a painful death.

Hints were dropped that his cybernetic implants were either messing with his brain in some way, or his corporate overlords had placed some hidden programming in there on purpose.

Arges was a handsome, blonde haired male of average height, and a fit build. He usually wore either his Mecha Pilot Flight Suit (which was lightly armored), or what looked like a race car driver outfit with a flight jacket. Both sets of clothes had the same color scheme - Mostly black with smaller white areas, and red piping.

Commander Bright (after his promotion) was a decent hand-to-hand fighter, but an expert shot with his laser pistol. His cybernetic enhancements gave him an increased reaction time, a much better sense of spatial awareness, increased stamina, and inhuman endurance. He also had a cybernetic eye that could scan people, or objects for faults, or weaknesses.

He was an extremely skilled Giant Robot pilot, especially in the areas of maneuvering, and beam weapons. Only in hand-to-hand, or melee combat was he ever bested. His personal mecha was a modified transformable unit that could change from starfighter to humanoid robot, to a hybrid form similar to the Valkyries of Macross. It had low power, rapid fire lasers in the head, a beam rifle, and two powerful beam cannons on the shoulders that could only be used a few times before overheating.

Arges was the name of one of the cyclopes of Greek Mythology, a tip-of-the-hat to the character's artificial eye. His name means 'Bright'. In addition, the name is a homage to Bright Noah, a major character from the original Mobile Suit Gundam series.

Hiroto Theseus, Corporate Alliance Mecha Pilot (played by Dave C.)

Another officer and mecha pilot in the military of the Corporation Alliance, Hiroto Theseus was second-in-command under Arges Bright. He was both the less assuming of the two, and the more traditionally heroic in a Japanese cultural sense.

The consummate good guy with noble intentions, a serious demeanor, and a strong sense of personal honor, Hiroto was the perfect counterbalance to his friend Arges. Where as Arges was very friendly, and outgoing, Theseus was more subdued, stoic, even introverted to some extent. 

Hiroto developed a rivalry with another mecha pilot, the renegade Raiden Nekomata (a PC from the Side Story game). The two clashed on a number of occasions, and although they did not consider each other 'mortal enemies', their differing ideologies made for one of the more interesting subplots of the campaign.

Hiroto was a dark haired, dark skinned young man of medium build. He was normally outfitted in his Mecha Pilot Flight Suit, which was primarily Blue, with smaller white sections, and red piping. 

Lt. Commander Theseus was a decent hand-to-hand combatant, not bad with a firearm, but surprisingly good with a sword, and knife. He carried a Vibro-Blade, about the length of a Wakizashi

Although not as good a pilot as Arges Bright, Hiroto was the better fighter up close and personal. His mecha was a non-transformable humanoid robot, with two energy swords (lightsaber style), that could overcharge and become 'Nova Swords'. After a single attack on Nova Sword mode, the saber would burn out. His long range weapons were a beam pistol, and missile launchers. 

Hiroto is a Japanese male name that means 'to fly far' or 'to go far'. Theseus is of course the name of the Greek Mythology hero who defeated the Minotaur, and other monsters. Hiroto Theseus lived up to the name, going toe-to-toe with a number of gigantic, alien monsters during the series.

Reign Daisuki, Holy Noble Nation Mecha Pilot, and Ambassador (played by Robert I.)

The son of a Duke and Duchess of the Holy Noble Nation, Reign Daisuki (fifteenth in line to the throne I might add!) was the Ambassador of the HNN to the Combined Operations Space Fleet. When the Fleet's mission abruptly, and dramatically changed (see Synopsis), Ambassador Daisuki became our front man, negotiator, and first contact specialist.

Eccentric, egotistical, and overbearing at times, Reign was one of the most entertaining characters in the game, providing the comedic element that we might otherwise be lacking (but which was quite prevalent in the original Paradise Fleet stories). It was Reign who more often than not got us into thrilling adventures, and hot water, when the team wasn't in their mecha.

Reign was a very good looking if foppishly dressed man with a slim, though muscular build. He had black hair, dark skin, and red-brown eyes. He often wore an elaborate outfit that looked like Elizabethan meets futuristic fashion (largely inspired by the clothing of characters from the Manga Five Star Stories). Even his deep red Mecha Pilot Flight Suit was ostentatious. 

Reign was not a particularly skilled fighter, although he was quite good with a sword. He possessed the ability to focus his 'Holy Noble Spirit' to generate a bright, shimmering glow about his person that filled onlookers with awe. This usually caused lesser opponents to back away, or even run. 

Daisuki's mecha was very impressive. It was a huge, crimson colored humanoid robot with two shoulder mounted shields that together created a force field to protect the machine and its pilot. The robot could also project twin waves of force that would damage enemies, but more importantly knock them back and away a considerable distance. Its only weakness was that both the 'Twin Noble Force Field' and 'Twin Noble Force Wave' systems would put a heavy strain, and power drain on the mecha's powerplant. The 'Crimson Noble' was one of only two such mecha in existence, the pair having been custom made for his family as a gift (his younger sister - a Player Character in the Side Story - had the other one). 

What I imagine the Crimson Noble looked like,
along with Reign sister Hime Daisuki - a PC in the Side Story

Image by Japanese artist 'Megamouth System'.

Reign is a play on words of sorts since he is a noble, but fairly far removed from his nation's 'God Emperor'. Daisuki is a Japanese term meaning 'I like you very much', but it can also mean 'I love you' in as close to a casual sense as Japanese culture would use. 

Skoll Okami, Warrior of the Jinhua Kinku Empire (played by Michael M.)

Skoll Okami is a representative of the Jinhua Kinku Empire (literally, 'Golden Flourishing Wild (or 'Kinky') Empire), an interstellar power founded by genetically engineered animal-Human hybrids. He himself has wolf attributes, though he appears to be mainly humanoid (not a human with a wolf head for example). 

At the start of the story Skoll is somewhat uncooperative, and aggressive towards the rest of the team, upset about how his people were treated in the past. Before long however, the other PCs form a tight relationship with him, proving that although the past was tragic, working together is the best way for them to survive now, and the only hope for the future.

Okami is nearly a head and a half taller than all the other PCs, broad shouldered, and muscular. His hair is long, resembles fur, and is light blue-gray in color, as are his eyes. Skoll's eyes are notably wolf-like, having 'too much iris'. At the top of his head are two wolf ears. His garb resembles pre-industrial Native American, and Pacific Islander clothing styles combined. He rarely wears anything on his feet. Towards the end of the campaign he gets his own, rather unique looking Mecha Pilot Suit.

Our greatest hand-to-hand fighter bar none, Skoll combines Muay Thai boxing, and wrestling moves to superb effect. He is very quick, and stronger than an average Human being. He also possesses heightened senses of smell, and hearing.

Skoll was the only character in the Main Story who did not begin the game as a Mecha Pilot. He usually remained on the command ship during mecha combat, or served as 'gunner' in Reign Daisuki's 'Crimson Noble' robot (which had a second seat for a weapons operator/passenger). Okami eventually gets one of the more unusual mechs in the entire campaign, a wolf shaped robot that could transform into a humanoid. 

The name Skoll is from Norse mythology, a child of Fenrir, or Fenris, who chased the Chariot of the Sun. Okami is the Japanese word for wolf. 

UPDATE: How could I forget our reoccurring guest stars/part-timers?

In order to get the feel of the campaign to be similar to the feel of the Dragon Magazine Paradise Fleet fiction, the game needed to include two important atmospheric, and thematic elements: Comedy, and Intrigue.

While Reign Daisuki provided some of the former, the latter was the domain of our two irregular regulars...

Masao Schedio, Corporation Alliance Cyborg Bureaucrat ( played by Will C.)

Director Schedio was a mid-to-upper level management bureaucrat in the Corporation Alliance, company...same thing...who served as the liaison between the Combined Operations Space Fleet's command echelon, and our (PC) team of advanced scouts. It was Masao who provided us with our intel, interpreted orders where they were vague, and dealt with the results of the team's successes and failures.

Schedio was played expertly by my buddy Will, who imbued him with charm, dignity, and the put upon weariness of the classic Japanese salaryman. He wholeheartedly embraced the idea that he'd get little credit for the wins, and all the blame for the loses. 

At the same time, one major, 'meta-plot' of the campaign, was that Schedio was in on a grand conspiracy that tied in to everything the story dealt with. He was both a cog in the works, and possibly a master manipulator, helping to steer things towards a mysterious end goal.

Director Schedio was one of two 'older' PCs, being described as a tanned, and weathered Japanese man in his mid-to-late thirties. He had salt, and pepper hair, gray-green eyes, and dressed like a combination samurai, and business man. He was cybernetic, but only in that he had a computer dataport/link in his neck, and could 'chip in' data chips for skills, and such.

Masao is a Japanese male name making 'correct man'. Schedio is greek for 'plan'. He is after all, the man with the plan. 

Sir Aldebrand Carmichael Von Himmel, Holy Noble Nation Military Adviser
(played by ?)

(Although I can see the players face in my mind, I do not remember his name. I feel terrible. It's a fellow I haven't seen in over 25 years so, cut me some slack. ^_^; ).

Former Admiral of the Royal Holy Noble Fleet, Knight of the Holy Noble Nation Honor Guard, Heir of the House of Himmel, Sir Aldebrand Carmichael Von Himmel is the military adviser assigned to the PC unit. While Director Schedio would know the mission, its objectives, and how it fit into the big picture, he was not a combatant. If hostile engagement was expected, or discovered, Sir Aldebrand  was called in to give the team advise. 

Pompous, a tad pretentious, and constantly telling you about the time at the Battle of Altair, Sir Aldebrand Carmichael of the planet Himmel could easily be written off as nothing more than a self-important windbag, but that would be selling him short. First, he was extremely cultured, and knowledgeable self-important windbag. Second, his experience as a Mecha Pilot, a Naval Officer, and a commander of men was both impressive, and helpful on numerous occasions.

Like Masao, Aldebrand was involved in some beyond the scenes affair of great importance, and complexity. It was unclear at first whose 'side' he was on, and indeed the relationship between Aldebrand, and Masao seemed to imply they were at odds. Near the end of the campaign however, it was evident that they were working together, each concerned with a different aspect of the campaign's big secret.

Aldebrand was a red haired (graying at the temples), blue-eyed, Caucasian male of mixed European descent sporting a mustache, and beard. He was tall, fit for his age of nearly 40, and always wore a Holy Noble Nation Naval Uniform of excessive showiness. It has dozens of medals, epaulets, a cape, and touted a riding crop. He may have had a monocle. I can not confirm, nor deny that possibility.

Aldebrand is a Germanic name meaning 'flaming sword', or 'fire sword'. Carmichael refers to both the arch-angel Michael, and the old Scottish 'caer', or 'care' meaning fort. Von Himmel is German as well, and means 'For Heaven'. The player was going for 'Flaming Sword of Heaven', which was not coincidentally Sir Aldebrand's signature special attack in his younger days.

More to come...

Barking Alien

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Wares Blade Beyond

Oh, I forgot to mention...

I recently discovered that Japan has its own Kickstarter style crowdfunding site, called Campfire. How did I discover this? Why is it significant? 

Well, it just so happens I was doing some research for a possible new Mecha Anime RPG campaign, and I came across a little something that may not mean much to the rest of you, but is of great importance to me...

So it would seem!

A company by the name of Shindosha, located outside of Tokyo proper, is trying to gather the fan backing necessary to bring back the epic 'Medieval Fantasy meets Giant Robot' classic in the form of games, replay comics, novels, and most especially an animated feature!

From what I've been able to gather, the main focus is on an animated film, or original video animated series and a series of setting guidebooks, and novels (or novels with a game information section in them - which is a neat idea) for a 'new' setting for the game called 'The Earth of the Sacred Texts', or 'Earth of the Sacred Land' (my translations may be off).

I put 'new' in quotes because if I am not mistaken, some of the previous Wares Blade prose novels do take place in this setting, though it is not the default setting of the game (think old school AD&D. The game itself is based on Greyhawk, but later there were novels set in the worlds of Dragonlance, and The Forgotten Realms). 

Wares Blade was very popular in Japan at one time,
and well supported with numerous products.

I've talked about Wares Blade a number of times on this blog, and would be totally jazzed to see it resurrected in any form. I am very curious to see what they do with it. Preliminary designs, and concept art look excellent, and I have high hopes that an new edition of the RPG will be available if the crowd funding project is successful.

Wow. A new Wares Blade. I can barely wrap my head around it. 

A new Mecha campaign by yours truly is now a must.

Barking Alien

Quicker Than Quick, Stronger Than Strong

The past 48+ hours have been most unusual.

My Mom was admitted to the hospital ER yesterday after experiencing some stomach pains on Sunday. As it turned out she needed to have her appendix removed.

Between being admitted, having an examination, having tests run, determining she needed an operation, having the operation, going into recovery, being released and going home took a total of 8-9 hours. No, I am not joking, nor exaggerating. My Mom first contacted me at 3 pm to let me know what was going on, and she got home, and was asleep in her own bed by 11:30 or thereabouts.

I got home to find a postal worker buzzing my apartment with a package for me. Yes, that late at night. The package was from a very dear friend I haven't seen in person in some time, though we speak occasionally on Facebook.

My buddy has been cleaning out his home of various items including his collection of games, toys, and other paraphernalia, and decided to send some of it to me. Among the item were a number of RPG books.

In his own words he said, "Treat them gently; there may be a forgotten dream hiding among these pages."

Some are items I own already.
Some are cool items that are neat to have.
Some are previously missing pieces of my youth that define who I am now..

Fitting into this last, and most precious of categories is none other than this...

That's a copy of the first edition of the Anime/Manga Giant Robot Role-Playing Game Mekton. I have been trying to get a hold of one for ages.

As I have made clear many times in the past, Mekton was, and is, one of my all time favorite games, largely as a result of the creators' deep understanding of the subject matter the game covers.

Mekton is quite literally a Japanese Giant Robot RPG, by a Japanese Giant Robot fan, for Japanese Giant Robot fans.

It is also a game that came out at the perfect time for me. I had recently made new friends who had exposed me to Japanese Animation and Manga (Comic Books) direct from source, and it made a huge impression on me. It changed the way I thought about games, about staging them, and how character and story intertwine with action. 

Between 1984, and 1994 I ran a lot of Mekton, mostly with Mekton II in 1987 to be completely honest. While I did run a few campaigns using the original rules, there weren't as many gamers familiar with Mecha Anime in those early years, so finding players was tough. 

With each new edition and add on that expanded the game, the system become very much improved in many ways, but I still feel that my favorite version is the first one. It was simpler, more straightforward, easier to modify, and later editions added so much fiddly crunch that I feel they slowed down combat even as they made it more tactically flexible. 

I like simplicity over complexity. I like things to seem complex, but really be rather easy to comprehend, and utilize. Like origami, or a karesansui (Japanese Rock Garden). 

This book has really got me jazzed to run a Mecha game again. It isn't just this book of course, as I noted in a recent, previous post I am in an Anime/Manga RPG mood. 

I also recently got a hold of a partial translation of the Japanese tabletop RPG Metallic Guardian, one of the SRS System games by noted Japanese RPG design house Far East Amusement Research (F.E.A.R. - how's that for a game company name acronym?).

I am currently working on figuring out how to play it, while simultaneously seeing if any of my favorite bits can be imported over to Mekton. 

What can I say, I love to kitbash. 

Robots are on the horizon my friends.

Watch for them.


Barking Alien

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The Sinister Superman Sandbox Syndrome

I have a million things to get to, but it's been a week from hell and I am just putting down the first thing that popped into my head. Future plans are for a Mekton/Mecha RPG post, some ruminations about The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, and of course, more Pokemon AD.

Wow. Whose table-top RPG blog reads like this? Seriously. I am pretty proud to have written that sentence. OK, enough of that. Back to near crippling self doubt...

For now however, I wanted to talk about something that occurred to me while reading a recent post by none other than the ever intriguing Noisms. While his train of thought and mine do not always line up, I am always willing to jump on that train of his and take it a few stops just to see where it goes.

This time is goes into an idea about forests, and fire-fighting Elves, and such, but that's not the part that really caught my attention. The part that got me was that he uses, as a point of reference, a post by Zak Smith within Zak details what Noism calls the Superman Sandbox Problem

Very much worth a read, as are most all of Zak's posts. The crux of the matter I want to discuss is that Zak states that in a sandbox style game, the heroic characters are at something of a creative disadvantage.

Hmmm. Perhaps disadvantage isn't the right way to put it. The idea is that a roguish character is more proactive, while a heroic character is more reactive. Therefore, the rogue sets up his, or her particular encounters, whereas the hero simply chooses one option, or another, or blindly bumps into an option that GM has chosen.

If a group of players with roguish PCs decide to - let's use one of Zak's own examples - steal a car from the used car lot, use it to aid in the getaway from a bank robbbery, ditch the car by a church afterwards.

Zak says in his post that if the PCs try to enact this scheme during a game, they basically create that session's adventure. The 'Adventure writes itself' he notes. 

The idea is that this doesn't happen for Superman, because...because...wait. Why doesn't it work this way for Superman?

In the same post, Zak gives various possible examples of how a heroic character, Superman in this case, could possibly interact with the sandbox world he's in: As we did for the roguish PCs, let's pick one possible option. For today's session, Superman wants to, umm, ah-ha! He could try to free Mon-El from the Phantom Zone (in the privacy of his own home, I suppose). [In the Fortress of Solitude - ed.]

Here's the difference (according to Zak's post):

"While any of these things may result in a conflict (and thus an adventure)the Superman PC--unlike the rouguish PC--has no idea of what the shape of that conflict will be." Sorry, I'm not understanding.

How does the rogue in the previous example know, in advance, what kind of security the bank has? How does he know the condition of the car he, and his gang have stolen? What if Clark Kent just happens to be in the bank depositing his latest check from the Daily Planet at the time of the robbery? What if the Flash is in town and hears about the car being stolen from the used car lot? What if the used car has a crappy transmission, or something else is faulty that causes the car to stall?

Likewise, how does Superman not know he will probably have to face off against villains he, and his father, trapped in the Phantom Zone when goes to free Mon-El? Doesn't going to free Mon-El go virtually hand-in-hand with saying, "I feel like getting into a tussle with Quex-Ul, Zaora, and General Zod today"?


"Superman does not choose to sketch out a violent conflict. The rogue does. Superman chooses from a set of options whose consequences (conflict-wise) are mostly unknown." Zak writes.

I guess...but no more, or less so than the rogues. It's a matter of perspective, and approach. To further illustrate what I mean, let's look at Zak's scenario for Superman in a Metropolis sandbox, and compare/contrast it to similar ones I've used (with some pointers taught to me by my Champions Guru friend Will Corpening)...

Zak posts:

"Ok, so picture this:

A GM somewhere writes out the city of Metropolis and the city of Gotham and the rest of the world of DC Comics in excruciating detail. The train lines, the shopfronts, which hot dog store owners are secretly shark-men, every inch of it. It's all ready to go.

Now here comes a PC playing Superman, into this sandbox.

"So what do you want to do today, Supes?"

"Uh, I guess I'll go on patrol."

Off he flies.

"Do I see any crime?"

"Umm, nope, not much, Metropolis is a fully-functioning independent world going about its business."

"Ok, I keep going. Now do I see any crime?"

Right here at the end is where my view point differs. If Superman's player says he goes on patrol over the city, he doesn't find nothing to do. That's not only boring, but it takes away part of the player being proactive. 

If the GM begins by asking the player what he wants to do, and then the player tells her, then the GM should, ya'know, do that. Have that happen. Haven't that result in nothing makes no sense.

What the player is saying here, if they're a proactive player, is that they want to have Superman find street crime in Metropolis. Maybe they're tired of Brainiac, and Bizarro and just want to stop some bank robbers in a stolen car.

If the rogue went to steal a car to rob a bank, would you tell them there weren't any cars in the lot? That none of the cars had gas? That the city had no banks? Of course not. The adventure writes itself, right? So why would a superhero deciding to patrol for crime find none?

My buddy Will would often open a Champions session by asking me where my character Starguard was, and what he was doing. Here are just a few of the actual answers I gave:

He's in space deflecting a comet from hitting the Earth.

He's near Jupiter, rescuing an alien starship caught in the planet's gravity well.

He's at our headquarters helping test our 'Danger Room' style training facility.

He's assisting another hero, trying to save the passengers and crew of a damaged 747. 

If you were the GM, what would you take from this? Will noted that I like to play up Starguard's 'space hero' nature, and that flight is important to me.

Do you think he just said, "OK, you deflect the comet/rescue the ship/save the plane. Now what?"

NO! How boring is that? Also, I as the player am indeed setting up for conflict in a proactive way. Why not take me up on it? If a bunch of thugs can turn a stolen car, and a bank robbery into an adventure, why can't I do that with a comet, and a bunch of aliens that need rescuing?

In the case of the comet, Will took the opportunity to tie my action into another player's opening game answer. My pal AJ said that his speedster, Pulse, was at New York City's South Street Seaport dealing with his arch-nemesis, the cold war, cold weather cretin General Winter. Apparently GW was using a device to attract the icy, space-born object towards the Earth for villainous purposes.

Pulse and Starguard
On the tail of a comet, as the trail goes cold!

In the instance of the 747, it was my attempt to not only do something classic for a flying hero (always wanted to save a plane Superman style), but also a chance to meet another hero from our world setting who maybe I didn't know. As it turned out, the flight was from New York to Atlanta, Georgia and I got to meet a few of the heroes of the South Eastern United States, including Sure Thing (a favorite NPC of mine), Swift, and the high flying, evangelical Messenger.

It's a Sure Thing baby.

I always see gaming as a friendly tug-of-war, a push, and pull between two forces, the players and the GM. I throw challenges at them to make them think, and act to overcome obstacles, but they - especially proactive players - challenge me to come up with things in response to their ideas.

I don't really plan adventures with proactive players in the mix. I layout the sandbox, plant story ideas, and options in the setting (hence my term 'Storybox' for my preferred style of play), and then see what the players have their PCs do.

They may feel like waiting for me to give them something.

"We scan the area. Any anomalous readings?"

"We check the Trouble Alert Monitor. Any crimes going on?"

They may want to pursue something mentioned in the background of the setting.

"If there's nothing pressing, we'd like to check out the that planet you mentioned two or three session back. The one with the unusual rings. We never got to really look at it, and it sounds interesting."

"Is Black Monday still at large? It always bugged me that he escaped. I want to investigate where he may have gone."

They may want to do something unexpected of their own design.

"The other players and I were talking and I think we have a way to upgrade the shjp's Star Drive using a new scientific theory I read about. We're going to dock at a space station, and do some upgrades. Let's dock somewhere where we can get high tech parts, and maybe find some work should the cost of the upgrades get expensive."

"The team and I talked about it, and we're tired of having such poor relations with the Atlanteans. We're going to go on a peace mission to Atlantis, talk to their leader, and hammer out a treaty. Maybe we can help them find, and capture that villain Wavemistress while we're in their region. That would really help getting them to see us favorably."

In the end, I agree that the proactive hero is less common than the proactive ne'er-do-well. However, I think that it may be that it's so because we've been trained (and trained ourselves) to think that.

It is also a trope of certain genres that the heroes lives are calm, and peaceful until such time as trouble strikes. Makes sense from both an emulation, and simulation stand point

That said, it's your game. There is no reason it has to be that way if you can fit the idea of a proactive benevolent character into the scheme of things without throwing the whole setting out of wack. My assertion is that generally speaking you can. Maybe not all the time, maybe not in every situation, but if the GM makes time for the proactive heroic PC, and the player uses that time in a sensible and entertaining way, well...why not?


Barking Alien

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Pokemon AD Strategy Guide

Back with a bit more on my Pokemon AD campaign concept; a tabletop RPG jaunt through the Canu Region, a Pokemon World faux-Canada of my own design.

One of the things I have yet to address in regards to my Pokemon RPG campaign idea is what exactly the roles of the Player Characters would be. What does one do in a Pokemon campaign exactly? 

Well that's a good question...if you aren't a Pokemon fan.

Pokemon Trainers
Across The Different Game Generations

If you are, and my guess is you'd have to be to be really excited about this proposition, you probably know the drill (generally speaking). You travel around the region using your Pokemon to capture more Pokemon, and then team up with them to win Gym Battles and other competitions. Your goal is to become the greatest Pokemon Trainer of all time - a true Pokemon Master!

Of course, this basic scenario leaves out all the other options available in a Pokemon tabletop RPG. As evidenced in the numerous 'generation' games, spin offs, animated series, animated films, and manga, there are a ton of other things one can do, or be, in a Pokemon campaign.

It was actually my friend Lord Blacksteel who inspired me to write this post, at this time. I was going to get to the ideas and options for Player Characters at a later date, but he brought up several concerns over what exactly a player and their PC can look forward to in a Pokemon campaign. These are valid, though once again I feel they are more valid if you are completely unfamiliar with the Pokemon setting. Those who know Pokemon, and enjoy the idea, are either eager to be a Pokemon Trainer on a Pokemon Journey, or well aware of what else there is to do.

I am going to use some of Blacksteel's comments to guide my descriptions, and explanations. But first...

There are certain tropes that define the Pokemon series, and in order to get into the feel of a Pokemon RPG campaign you need a basic understanding [and more importantly an acceptance] of these tropes. 

The Pokemon Journey

Many people in the Pokemon world go on a trip around their native region to better understand themselves, the Pokemon that live there, and the relationship between them, and the world they live in. This quest can begin when the individual is as early as 10 years of age, the age at which someone can legally obtain an official Pokemon Trainer License.

The license is made available through a Pokemon Professor, or other sanctioned regional Pokemon League official. Once you have an official Pokemon Trainer License, you may proceed on your own personal adventure through the Pokemon World. You may travel alone or with friends. During your journey you are sanctioned to capture Pokemon, study them, battle with them against Gym Leaders for Pokemon badges, or any number of other goals (explained further below).

The Pokemon League

All licenses, captures, and battles must be approved by the regional Pokemon League, an organization that governs everything related to Pokemon, and people's interactions with them. While it is unclear, there is some indication that there may be a World Pokemon League that oversees the regional leagues.

Before you participate in a Gym, or Pokemon League Arena Battle the condition of your Pokemon, and an account of your journey is checked out. It can also occur at a Pokemon League sanctioned Pokemon Center.

If it is discovered that you abuse your Pokemon, stole them, or cheated in a sanctioned battle, you are subject to expulsion from the Pokemon League, and your license will be taken away. In instances where an actual crime was committed (Pokemon abuse, or using Pokemon to commit crimes), the Pokemon Leagues have the ability to contact the regional police (your local Officer Jenny), and even have their own law enforcement arm (The Pokemon Rangers).

I thought a lot about the above information, compared it to some of the episodes of the animated series, and discovered that the Pokemon World is far stranger than it even appears.

There is one episode clearly showing a flashback to a World War (it appears to be WW II), that shows soldiers, and their Pokemon fighting from the trenches of a battle torn countryside. Various Officer Jennys (the seemingly cloned female police officer in every major city of every region) have Pokemon partners that help them fight crime. There are Pokemon farmers, Pokemon fisherman, Pokemon entertainers, and much, much more. Essentially any job, or profession that exists in the real world has a Pokemon World equivalent. 


Player Characters begin their campaign in the same way the trainers of the video games, and anime series begin, as newly licensed Pokemon Trainers about to begin their Pokemon Journeys. 

They meet at the local Pokemon Research Center, encounter a Pokemon Professor, and obtain their license, their Pokedex (only one Pokedex per party of Trainers), a cache of Pokeballs, and choose their starter Pokemon. 

The player may then decide on their Pokemon Trainer Class. The various games, and the animated programs have featured a wide assortment of different Trainer Classes. Basically, everyone who goes on a Pokemon Journey to learn, and work with Pokemon is a Pokemon Trainer. Now that that's understood, what are you training them for?

You could be going for Pokemon League Champion, the highest honor a Pokemon Trainer who battles 'professionally' can achieve. That's basically what Ash/Satoshi appears to be throughout the anime.

Other options include:

Pokemon Breeder - Someone concerned with the breeding, caring, and raising of Pokemon.
Pokemon Coordinator - Someone who enters Pokemon to win non-combat contests.
Pokemon Photographer - Someone who takes pictures of Pokemon in nature.
Pokemon Professor - Someone who studies, and knows 'scientific' data about Pokemon.
Pokemon Rider - Someone who rides Pokemon as part of their profession.

A Pokemon Rider
from Pokemon Sun, and Moon

Remember that these are only a handful of the possible Trainer Classes/Professions in the world of Pokemon. Explore the seas as a Pokemon Oceanographer! Become a Pokemon Chef, whose Pokemon help her create delicious, and beautiful pastries! A Pokemon Miner might use his Rock Type, or Steel Type Pokemon to uncover veins of minerals, or precious metals! 

The possibilities are endless!

One can also strive to join the Pokemon Rangers. Not technically considered a Trainer Class (they use a very different method for working with Pokemon), the Pokemon Rangers are a combination US Marshal/Environmental Protection Officer/Secret Agent. If the Pokemon RPG had a 'Prestige Class' this would be it. 

Pokemon Rangers
from Pokemon X, Y

Now, let's check out Blacksteel's comments, and see if we can't expand the roles of PCs in a Pokemon RPG even further...

Blacksteel says, 

"There's a lot that's not really on the menu in a Pokemon game I would think."

For instance?

"You're not going to fight personally, your pet is."

Well in most cases this is true. When your PC, the Trainer, encounters a situation like a bridge being out, or needing to save someone who fell into ditch, it makes sense for the Pokemon to be lead by you, but run by the GM.

In Pokemon Battles however, once the Trainer chooses a Pokemon, I imagine the player switches to playing the Pokemon, able to tap into any skills the Trainer has that apply to the fight. So for example, if you are playing a Pikachu and want to use Thunderbolt move, assume the Trainer yelled, "Pikachu! Use Thunderbolt!" The player is really running both.

"There's not much in the way of loot or power other than the narrow scope of the Pokemon tournament/crowd and your standing within it."

Well...there is a lot in that vein however. There a dozens of different types of Pokeballs, each varying in quality, with some giving bonuses to the capture of particular types of Pokemon. There is the Pokemon Watch, or Poketech, a coveted, wrist-mounted communiator/smart phone that can perform a variety of different tasks. There is the Pokenav, an interesting device that enables you to track Pokemon, as well as navigate an area - part GPS, part Homing Beacon, and more.

There are healing potions, stones that can evolve, or power up your Pokemon, fossils, relics, and many other items to discover.

"Is there an evil dictator to fight and save the world from? Probably not."

Actually, there are several.

The classic villain of the series, especially in the animated version, is Team Rocket. While the members our heroes keep encountering are more like misguided buffoons, the 'on paper' description of the organization as a whole is far more sinister. They are prone to stealing other people's Pokemon, selling them on the black market, and even conducting cruel experiments on them. They believe Pokemon exist to be exploited by their organization for the ultimate goal of taking over the world.

Sounds like an evil dictator to save the world from if you ask me.

There are a number of other teams with villainous goals, and approaches including Team Flare (which seeks an ancient, ultimate weapon to destroy all life on the planet except members of their organization in order to lessen the drain on the Earth's natural resources - yes, you read that right - Pokemon Ra's Al Ghul), and Team Galactic (which intends to use the mythical power of a Legendary Pokemon to recreate the entire galaxy exactly how they want it to be).

Luckily there are Pokemon Police, Pokemon Rangers, and even at least one Pokemon Superhero. Yep, there is a masked crimefighter who stops criminals using their wits, acrobatics, and skills as a Pokemon Trainer. 

Quickly! To the Gligarcave!

"Are we out to get rich? Probably not."

No...I guess you could be, but boy is that boring, and passe'. Seriously, that's rarely been the sole motivation for any of the PCs in any of my games. It's barely a good #2 goal.

"Is exploring a new Pokemon region really all that exciting? Compared to say, 1889 Mars? The streets of Coruscant?"

It could be.

First, a new region to explore is really exploring a place similar to that of a real world location, usually with more wild, untamed areas. The Pokemon World is more concerned with issues of environmental conservation than we are (unfortunately). 

In the case of my homebrew Canu Region, I think exploring a pseudo-Canadian wilderness filled with strange creatures sounds pretty cool. Add in the other elements of the Pokemon World - Advanced Technology, Ancient Magic, Ghosts, Mecha, Psychic Powers - and I'd totally be down to check out that setting.

"Yet another fantasy realm full of wizards, knights, and assassins?"

Are you being serious? To me, nothing could be less interesting.

Unless, hmmm, I wonder what the Pokemon World was like during its Middle Ages...

Dungeons and Dragonites anyone?

Barking Alien