Tuesday, December 25, 2012

I'm Dreaming Of A Dice Christmas

I'm dreaming of a Dice Christmas
From the D20 to D4
I want some 10's, like way back when
We used to play and roll them on the floor

 I'm dreaming of a Dice Christmas
Just like the ones I used to own
Those blue ones with the speckles were so nice
May all your Christmases have dice
 
I'm dreaming of a Dice Christmas

With every critical I roll
The damage from my sword is counted twice
So may all your Christmases have dice






This has been a pretty good Christmas all things considered. And tomorrow looks to pretty nice as well. That's all the present I need.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to you and yours from me and mine.

I leave you with this random holiday thought...

***

More than anything, I want to meet the girl who's name appears on both of Santa's lists.

***

And to all a good night,

AD
Barking Alien



 

Friday, December 21, 2012

7th Heaven

So the Mayan predicted apocalypse failed to come to pass. Your welcome.

My crew and I don't mind slingshotting around the Sun and teaming up with Gary Seven (especially if a late 60's Teri Garr joins in) to save your sorry 21st Century butts from ancient alien gods but the least you can do is say thanks.



"Not even a cookie? Boy the 21st Century is full of ungrateful jerks."
"Now, now Roberta...language."
 
 
Back in normal spacetime, I had this idea after reading Ark's comment at the end of his post on the subject of the 7 games he's played and run the most. Ark states...
 
"Funny how this doesn't represent what my Top Seven Favorites are. :)

- Ark"
 
Funny indeed...and intriguing (to me at least).
 
How and why would those games in your Top 7 list of most played and most GMed not be the same as your list of favorites? Well, a little thing I like to call 'compromise'.
 
For many compromise is a dirty, downright evil word and surely, many forms of art suffer from the inclusion of this concept. You'd be hard pressed to find a film, television show, video game or even a comic book that benefited from the creative team compromising in some way. Zak has said as much in the past, in words both more eloquent and venomous than I could hope to articulate here.
 
In my recent experiences however, compromise is necessary to even get a game started. My group(s) of late have been both too opinionated and too diverse to easily come up with a campaign idea without some degree of compromise. Simply picking which game to run is a compromise, less you alienate players you really want to have join you.
 
Now I'm going to play devil's advocate with myself here and say...wait Adam...what if you didn't have to compromise. What if you could run exactly what you want to run (or play what you want to play for that matter). What if you said, "Screw this. We're playing X!" Would it result in a better campaign?
 
Maybe it would. Given the chance to be as awesome as I can be, in the place I feel most awesome, would I not be at my awesomest?
 
Surely it would be a better product than one I did not really want to produce. Smaller but better. I often feel like less people would be interested in exactly what interests me the most. Unfortunately, I prefer larger groups to smaller ones and so I find myself in a Catch-22.
 
I'm sure there are further ruminations I could entertain on this particular train of thought but that's not why I began this post. No, I am here to guilt you over not springing for drinks or a simple 'Congratulations' card in regards to the whole End of the World thing and list my Top 7 Favorite Games of All Time!
 
This is in order of how I feel tonight. While the games listed wouldn't change, which one is first or second or third, etc. might alter with my mood.
 
1. Star Trek (Last Unicorn Games - ICON)

I love this game. It gets extra love points because its Star Trek, granted, but I just think it's the best balance between cinematic attitude and Star Trek fanboy technical information. It's a very 'user friendly' game and the system makes it so easy to translate my ideas to paper when creating adventures. That is probably one of the key things I look for in any game.
 
2. Star Wars (West End Games - D6)
 
While I love Star Trek as an IP more than Star Wars, the Star Wars D6 game was just amazingly cool to me. It was one of those very few games that hit the sweet spot between simplicity and detail and it just worked for me. Still does. So smooth, so fast paced, I almost never have to look up a rule or check a chart. Love it.
 
3. InSpectres (Memento Mori)
 
So simple and yet so much you can do with it. In all honesty, it doesn't come off as a new idea in gaming for me as much as an incredible reboot of the old West End Games 'Pre-D6' system for their Ghostbusters RPG. At the same time it's so much more. Just an awesome piece of work.
 
Perhaps one of the reasons I love this game so much is it's adaptability to being modified and messed with.
 
4. Faery's Tale Deluxe (Green Ronin/Firefly Games)
 
I've talked about this game before and it formed the basis of my Smurfs RPG project from August of last year. I've houseruled it a bit and made a great deal of background and adventure material for it but alas, this is one of those games that it is hard to get my buddies to see the potential in. While aimed at both a younger gamer and those of a fun-for-all-ages mentality, I feel there is a major untapped market with this game. Anyone who is a fan of classic faerie folklore and fairy tales (By the way, today celebrates the 200th anniversary of Grimms' Fairy Tales) need only dedicate a little time and effort to make this fantastic game into something extra extraordinary.
 
5. Champions (Various - Hero System)
 
There is no good reason I should like this game. It's complex, crunchy, full of charts, math heavy and Just. So. Freaking. GOOD! It's so bizarre to me that I love Champions as much as I do. It is the opposite of my usual game preferences. It is the Anti-Faery's Tale Deluxe. Yet it is a game that appeals to my main gripe about games I do not like. Champions is a game that gives you the tools to create what's in your head in a way that matches with everything else in the book, in your players' heads and in supplements to come. One system, a million, billion ways to make something.
 
This game is also one of the few I will jump at the chance to play and from me that says a lot.
 
6. Mutants & Masterminds 3E
 
What's not to like about 'Champions Made Easy'? ;)
 
Obviously anyone who's played the game knows there is more to M&M than that but the fact remains that it's a point-buy-and-build system that doesn't hurt the head of the math deficient (such as myself). Excellent support of the earlier editions and a great website are the icing on the cake for this fast paced, easy to understand Superhero RPG.
 
7. Mekton (I and II - R. Talsorian Games)
 
I am in the minority here I know but I prefer the original and Mekton II to Zeta. While Mekton Z is a work of genius, to me it over complicates the beauty of the system. The previous editions have that Japanese minimalist design meets Japanese technical complexity dynamic that puts it close to LUG Star Trek for depth of design combined with ease of use.
 
When looking at this list I think I'm pretty lucky. I got to play most of my favorites a few times and run them numerous times. When all is said and done, what else could a gamer ask for.

What are your favorites?
 
AD
Barking Alien 



Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lucky Sevens

OK, I'll play too...

The first part of this is actually very difficult. The top seven games I've played the most? Have I even played any one of seven different games more than any other besides D&D? I played in a single Champions campaign that I was in for three and a half years almost. Does that count?

I've played a lot of D&D 'cause, unfortunately for me, that's what most people run. I've hardly ever gotten to play the games I love like Star Trek, Star Wars, Traveller, Mekton, Teenagers from Outer Space, Faery's Tale Deluxe, InSpectres, Toon, Paranoia, etc. Some of them I've never played. 

As I've said many times before, I don't actually like to play very much. Boy this is hard.

OK, here goes...from most times to least times:

1. D&D ( TSR - Mostly AD&D 1st)
2. Traveller (GDW - Classic)
3. Star Trek (FASA)
4. Champions (Various - Mostly 3E and 4E - A lot of one campaign really)
5. Mekton (R. Talsorian Games - Sort of. We rotated GMs but I was the main one)

That's really it. Everything else were games I played maybe one or two times each. There are dozens of those but none more than any other.

Wow.

Now games I've run..easy peasy:



I've flown this so often I should get frequent flyer miles on the Starship Enterprise.
 
1. Star Trek (FASA - But also Last Unicorn Games' ICON System)
2. Champions (4E)
3. Star Wars (West End Games - D6)
4. Traveller (GDW - Classic and MegaTraveller)
5. Mutants & Masterminds (Green Ronin - All Editions including DC Adventures)
6. Dungeons & Dragons (TSR/WotC - Mostly AD&D 1E, 3E, 3.5 and my homebrew version)
7. Mekton ((R. Talsorian Games - 1E through Zeta)

In my 35 years in the hobby (celebrated this past August) I have probably run thousands of sessions of hundreds of different games. Other games I have run A LOT of include Villains & Vigilantes (FGU), Star Frontiers (TSR), DC Heroes (Mayfair Games), Teenagers from Outer Space (R. Talsorian Games) and possibly Shadowrun (FASA - 1E and 2E).

The gaming dynamic I experienced throughout most of my life goes something like this...

Me: I want to play something. Except D&D.

Every GM I met: Cool! We're running D&D.

Me: Drat.

***

Me: I want to run something. Except D&D.

Every Player I met: Cool! Can you run any game that isn't D&D 'cause that's all anyone runs?

Me. Yes.

Lots of people applauding while I facepalm.

AD
Barking Alien




Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Thinking Ahead


On Character Generation and Creation in TRAVELLER:
 

 
 
Traveller character generation requires quite a few random dice rolls. OK, who am I kidding, a lot of random rolls. In all honesty I don't tend to favor games with a great deal of randomness in the character creation process but Traveller holds a special place in my heart. Convincing a group of players who similarly don't like their character creation to be so focused on generation to give the system a shot can be tricky at best. Many see it as an experience where they have very little control over their character's design. I see it very differently.

To me, character creation in Traveller is a strategic mini-game all its own.
 
Before you begin creating a PC for Traveller, consider what kind of character you would like to play. Imagine the galaxy of the distant future and you living in the vast, star spanning Imperium. What kind of person are you? How do you make a living? Ignore Species and Professions for a moment and think of what you want the end character to be like.
 
Let's take me for example. I love Science Fiction and my favorite thing about Science Fiction is aliens. Ah the fascination with extraterrestrial life forms. I want an explorer who travels to far off planets and learns about the aliens who live there. I want to make friends with the aliens if they are sentient and study them if they are more animal-like.
 
When I look at the Professions, I consider which ones work for my concept. Scout definitely. Scientist? Hmmm, maybe. Diplomat would be useful and appropriate. Hunter? I don't want to hunt aliens...but...being able to track them down and the skill to survive on exotic planets is cool. OK...
 
I start by applying for Scout and...(roll of the dice)...get it! I'm a Scout! Let's say luck is with me and I remain a Scout for three terms (12 years). I decide to switch Professions and roll to see if I can be a Diplomat...(roll of the dice)...no! Bullocks! Oh well, I have other options. Maybe Hunter...no, this guy is really more of a  Mr. Spock/Science Officer character in my mind. Ok, Scientist it is! So...(roll of the dice)...Yes! I do a term of Scientist. Now I am 34 and ready to explore the galaxy!
 
Fighting type? Marine, Army are both good. If you want to go more Starship Officer go Navy. A Pilot type? Flyer or Navy is best but others may work as well. Some kind of Bounty Hunter? Hunter and Law Enforcement maybe. I often get asked how to make a Han Solo/Smuggler type of character. So many ways! Merchant with Pirate, Flyer and Rogue, Merchant and Rogue, Navy and Pirate or Rogue, etc. 
 
Next it becomes a question of Skill picks and a few added elements from the 'Mustering Out Benefits'. Don't forget to record any successful Commission, Special Duty or Promotion rolls. They affect your Mustering Out Benefits and in my house rules, they can give you additional background, skill or contact information. I have a number of random charts and 'pick lists' that enable you to determine, for example, what the Special Duty you had was and what went on during it.

I also have alternate rules (charts and pick lists) for what happens if you don't survive character creation. You can actually be dead and start over or something far more interesting and otherworldly may have happened.




AD
Barking Alien


 

Setting Up

The majority of the crew I'll be running Traveller with starting next year know very little about the game, let alone the canon of its Third Imperium setting. I view this as a good thing.
 
It enables me as the GM to focus on describing my campaign universe by what will be most important to the PCs and by anything and everything that's ever been included in Traveller.
 
As I stated in the synopsis I recently posted to my players via our Facebook Group:
 
The Traveller universe is freaking huge. Huge to the point where trying to explain the entire milieu here would not only be silly to attempt but wouldn't really help us get ready for the game. Instead, I am going to address the setting as it relates to the PCs at the start of the game.
 
I will include more detailed information on the whole of Traveller's 'Charted Space' setting for them in the Player Books I will be handing out to them (more on these in a later post).
 

The crux of the campaign will focus on...
 

TRAVELLER - Operation: Paladin
 
 


All the PCs will begin on a Trade Outpost Space Station in a slightly-off-the-beaten-path star system in the Spica Sector. Imagine the station as the starting line of a race or scavenger hunt. Once I say GO! it's completely up to the PCs where they end up from there. I reminded them, "Traveller is deadly and very like D&D in that not everyone has all the skills needed to survive".

My take on the Spica Sector is that it's a frontier sector located on the galactic rim. Half of it is controlled by the Galactic Imperium, although it is administrated and operated for the Imperium by the Solomani Confederation. The Solomani Confederation, although a 'subsidiary' government to the Imperium, is still very large and very powerful in it's own right. It is run from the planet Terra, the Confederation's capital, by the native Humans of the Sol System (hence Solomani).*


The other half of Spica is the domain of the bizarre aliens known as the Hivers and the equally bizarre Hive Federation. In some ways, the Hive Federation is akin to the Dominion of Star Trek.** There are different species with different jobs in the Federation but all serve under their benevolent masters, the Hivers. Now the Hivers aren't evil per se and they aren't considered a hostile power but there is something very strange about how they have expanded their influence and it might be worth investigating.*

In between the Solomani Confederation and the Hiver Federation is an unclaimed 'no man's land' of non-aligned colonies, unexplored worlds, pirate bases and other planets of interest that exist but their own laws alone.

Finally, rumors abound about an army of extremely advanced robots being constructed somewhere in the Spica Sector under the named 'Operation: Paladin'. Exact details are unknown and the stories vary wildly. While the name has been bandied about quite often lately, no one the PCs know is able or willing to say where the rumors originated.

Questions and comments are welcome. That doesn't mean I'll answer them all. ; )

AD
Barking Alien


*When I say 'My Take' I am really just rephrasing or redefining things that have already been established. I felt the need to clarify some elements so as no to get the players confused between our campaign and variations on the canon resulting from the different editions of the game or different time periods within the background.

**This indicates a bit more extrapolation and adjustment on my part when compared to the Traveller canon.


Monday, December 17, 2012

The Compleat Traveller

And the winner is...

TRAVELLER!



The first session of our new Traveller campaign, entitled 'OPERATION: PALADIN' will begin at noon on Saturday, February 9th, 2013 at the Compleat Strategist in New York City.

I am so excited I can barely contain the excess radiation leaking from the Jump Drive of my heart. Or something.

After a few weeks working on the Compleat Strategist campaign's basic premise and some setting and story ideas, the final decision on setting and system came down to two games: Traveller (Original or 'Classic' if you prefer) and Star Trek (Last Unicorn Games' ICON System).

I put the choice up to a vote on Facebook and contacted a few players independently (who I know will be joining us but don't use Facebook). In addition to those who know they will be participating and those that might be, a good number of friends and fellow gamers commented and voted as well.

In the final tally, I couldn't count votes from anyone who wouldn't actually be involved. If I had, Star Trek would've won by a good sized margin. As it was, Traveller ended up edging Star Trek out by only two votes. That's awesome to me. It means a Star Trek campaign somewhere down the road is a distinct possibility. Very heart warming indeed.

Now then, what is this campaign about...?

AD
Barking Alien



Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Storybox

Story Games + Sandbox = Storybox.
 
Check it...
 

 
 

When old school gaming is discussed, there is usually a preference for a Sandbox style approach to campaign design. What exactly is 'Sandbox'?
 
According to the RPG StackExchange website, (excerpt quote) "a campaign that does not have a specific prescribed storyline, but one where the GM sets up a world (or at least a small section of one) and the PCs are free to wander where they will, and find adventure where they will. It's about freedom of choice."
 
While I am sure we can all agree there is a bit more to it than that (and there is - you are more than welcome to read the linked article), I think we can also agree that this is the essence of the idea.
 
New school games are often referred to as Story Games. What does that really mean?
 
According to the RPG Glossary of the well known website BoardGameGeek.Com (which incidentally has no reference in its glossary for 'Sandbox'), Story Games (quoted) "are RPGs which focus more on the overall story than character building or rules enforcing. Most RPGs can be made to be more story driven given the predisposition of the GM/Players, but clearly some RPGs are more tailored to this style of play."
 
When I read or hear discussions about these two avenues of gaming I often feel like an alien trying to comprehend Human thought processes. I don't see the two as separate or different in the way others do. I understand the two descriptions above but they honestly do little to explain to me why the two do not function in tandem all the time.
 
I am then reminded of something my friend Dave said recently, my friend Martin said many years ago, my friend Will said in high school and another friend said to me in junior high school..."Most GMs don't think like you."
 
Hmm.
 
So if my style is so unusual (which in truth I don't think it is), it needs a name. If its got a story and it's a Sandbox, I will call what I do...Storybox gaming.
 
How Does Storybox Gaming Work? 
 
When I design a campaign, one of the first things I do is think of a good story. Something with a strong, basic premise that I can elaborate on during the campaign.

Next, I create between three and five smaller stories, subplots if you will, and place them in different places on my Storybox world/sector map. Very often (95% of the time), these subplots are based on ideas or background material supplied to me by the players participating in the game. This gets them directly involved in the game should they come across the subplot. More about that in a moment.

Now my world map (or sector map or city map or whatever type of map I need for the genre) is given some general parameters (the Elves are in this place, the galactic frontier is to the left of the map, this part of town is the factory and warehouse section, etc.) and I create or assign some adventures to each part of the map along with where the PCs can find elements of the main plot and subplots.

The PCs are then welcome to explore the map as they like. They can also ask an NPC what is happening of interest in their present locale. They can also go to a tavern/spaceport bar and pick up rumors or get hired by a mysterious patron. Looking for wanted posters and trying to bring in bounties is also a common past time in many of my games (especially the earlier ones when we really didn't know the difference between the 1100s and the 1800s).

Here you have the typical Adam game.

It starts with a map whose general layout is known but its specifics aren't.






You can go anywhere on the map your current mode of transportation can take you to. You are limited only by your mode of transport (from feet to starship in some settings) and the time it takes to get where you're going.

Some of the locations on the map, unbeknownst to the players and their PCs, will unlock a major plot or subplot. New stories that happen on the fly lay in waiting in every location that isn't already harboring a plot point. All plots are either general and design to be detailed as we progress in the campaign or they unlock a pre-planned adventure (for example: On Aerth there is a place called 'The Borderlands'. A Keep is located at the Northern Edge of the region. The Borderlands extend to the South and Southwest. Stop off at the Keep and you've stopped at 'The Keep on the Borderlands' and unlocked the potential of running through Module B2).

As the players and their PCs display interest in various elements of the campaign, the game's story (or stories actually) change, contract and expand, allowing the parts that excite the group to gain importance over ones that just don't tickle our collective fancy.

This goes for NPC relationships as well. Those NPCs that the PCs like working with and talking to become reoccurring guest stars. Others  may appear once or twice but if no one goes to see them again they are 'written out' of the campaign in favor of new ones.

I could go on and on about this subject and I will probably end up writing a follow up to this post before long but for now, that is a good summation of how I do things. I do not view Sandbox games and Story Games as things that are mutually exclusive and I never have. I see all my games as a combination of the two.

My Sandbox has stories buried somewhere inside it. My stories can go anyway you want to take them.

There are no locks on Storybox...

AD
Barking Alien







Monday, December 10, 2012

Into Darkness

I stand upon a gaming precipice, with the potential for a seriously epic Science Fiction RPG campaign laid out ahead of me and dark and foreboding clouds rolling in.




The coming year appears to be throwing me a curve ball in that I will get the chance to run a game at my FLGS, The Compleat Strategist, though two of my mainstay players may not be able to attend too often!

Both Dave and Marcus appear to have personal and family oriented responsibilities that could make their participation in next years' games somewhere between spotty and non-existent. Of course they are my buddies and I want them to do what they need to do (just as I would if the situation arose) but from a getting-friends-together angle it sucks.

The whole reason I accepted/offered to run something at the Strat was because people were interested and I wanted a larger group. If I have three players now and lose two, and only gain two players at the store for example, I am back where I started from.

I suppose the key factor on whether or not this is a good idea remains to be seen in just how many people confirm an interest in my 'Second Saturday at the Strat' shenanigans.

***

As usual my title bears with it a double meaning. Maybe triple considering it's also the title of the next Star Trek film. Anyway, the December Holiday Season approacheth. If you follow this blog with annual regularity you will notice that one of my personal yuletide traditions is to hope I can find a warm, snuggley, rock covered hole with which to crawl into until it all blows over.

This year I am trying something different. I am just going to ignore it and go on with my life. I am not foolish enough to tempt the fates and try to accomplish anything grand or wonderful, nor do I expect this season and the coming new year to bring me any great luck or prosperity. I will not dread it however.

I am growing as a person.

AD
Barking Alien

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Top Ten Things I Want In My Next Science Fiction Game

Since I very much have Science Fiction on the brain lately and plan to turn that preoccupation toward a new campaign in 2013, I thought I would take a moment and indulge myself by listing the Top Ten Things I Want In My Next Science Fiction Game (Inspired by this post by long time ally in the fight for SF gaming, Jay of EXONAUTS!).

#1. A Bunch of Aliens

I want aliens. As PCs, NPCs, allies, enemies and inexplicible god-like entities beyond our understanding. I want a good amount. Almost alot. Not too many. Dune has too few. Star Wars too many. I liked the Original Series and Movie Era Star Trek periods when there were a a few dozen of varying types and levels of advancement spread across a wide area. Post Next Gen the galaxy is too crowded with uninteresting aliens.

#2. Starships With Flavor

Different kinds. Not just different classes and types (but that too), I want vessels of different governments and alien species to have distinct appearances, design aesthetics and special features. Babylon 5 didn't always have the most awesome starship designs ever (though many were pretty neat) but it often looked like one concept artist design some of them while a completely different concept artist came up with others.

#3. Weird Planets That Are Plausible

Planets that make you go, "WTF Science?!" Remember when we were kids and our science teachers and science books said, "That planet you read about in that Science Fiction book is fun to think about but in reality we'll never find a planet completely covered in water." BAM! Suck it high school science teachers and your lack of vision.

#4. A Lot Of Travel

My love/obsession with different environments and locale settings means I want the situations and the PCs to move around a lot. A different world every week! OK, maybe every few sessions. It depends on which game I go with and how the Players perceive that universe.

#5. A Homebase To Go Back To

As much as I want to see the characters travel from world to world, I want them to have a central location to go back to in order to access what happened and what to do next. This could be a starship, a space station, one planet in particular or whatever. The point is there will be a familiar safehouse or port of call (port in a storm) from which to set out into the unknown.

#6. An Enemy of Grandeur

I want a bad guy, a villain, an antagonist, who is not a species but also not a single person. That is, I don't want Klingons (or only Klingons) but I don't want Khan either. I am thinking criminal or terrorist organization. A space version of Cobra or Hydra. Big, wide spread but still finite.

#7. People Matter More Than Tech

I've got some gearhead players but what I really have it guys who want the advantage Sci-Fi tech gives you to not have to walk over and check things out for yourself. They also like the idea of killing things from far away where things can't reach and kill them.

I like it when either the tech doesn't help the PC as much as the Player's innovative use of it does or when the enemy's got the same tech they do.

Player skill over PC equipment is what I am looking for.

#8. A Big Plot...or Three

I intend the game to seem Sandbox-y but there will definitely be an overarching story, perhaps several. I plan on placing the story elements out there in the Sandbox of Space and if the PCs come across one or more pieces they may or may not get involved. The plot however will continue to develop with or without their interference and may end up a nusiance to them somewhere down the road.

#9. A Mystery As Large As Space

I may not be able to pull this one off but not for any lack of ability on my part. Rather, I may not have any Players or PCs as into checking out the mysterious and unexplained as I am into including it. I will put in a handful of 'Secrets of the Universe' and see if anyone bites and wants to know more. Otherwise, I won't push. It'll just be there for me.

#10. Massive, World(s)-Shattering Explosions

I haven't blown up an entire planet in forever. Now where did I leave that Illudium Q-36 Explosive Space Modulator?

AD
Barking Alien

Oh yeah, almost forgot...there's this.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Always On My Mind

I said I was going to talk about my homebrew Dungeons & Dragons universe this month. So what am I doing sitting here in front of my computer with thoughts of alien lifeforms, distant planets and energy pistols dancing through my head? It seems to be that no matter what I am working on, starfaring, Science Fiction adventure is always on my mind.




This is beginning to feel like Phil & Dixie promising to discuss 'Sex in D&D'.

While I hope to get to a full month dedicated to Aerth and The Order of The Winghorn Guard* soon, I just can't bring myself to do it right now.

I am, to be quite honest, a bit Fantasied Out. It is so a term.

Between my regular Ars Magica campaign, my Mythology-Meets-The-Modern-World game with the kids at the Learning Center and my one shot of D&D AD over Thanksgiving (which will get a part two during the week between Xmas and New Years), I really don't want to think about Knights, Magic and Dragons on my 'days off'. At least not right now.

What is swirling around in the whirlpool of my mind is, as I noted at the top of this post, Science Fiction. These thoughts couldn't have come at a better time to tell you the truth, as I am also considering returning to gaming at my FLGS, The Compleat Strategist.

I have been on the receiving end of some very kind words lately regarding my previous campaign there and I've had a number of the old players imply they miss my GMing at the Strat (as we like to call it here in New York). I myself have been missing having more players so it may work out very well.

What to run remains, inevitably, the great unknown, but the gist of this post should be bringing the subject into focus a bit more clearly.

No Fantasy. Done with that for a while. That is, once I finish my current Fantasy games I don't want to touch that genre for a good long stretch. I owe it to myself. My reward if you will for running so much of my least favorite genre will be to get a break from it and run something I prefer.

No Supers. My last major campaign at the Compleat Strategist was a Supers game, although I did run a few short ones of other things before departing to other projects. It also wasn't that long ago that I finished up my Champions campaign, with an ending arc that left a sour taste in my mouth. I'll wait to renew my Superhero gaming until the palette has had time to cleanse.

That leaves...





AD
Barking Alien



Friday, November 30, 2012

If The Stars Aligned

I'm really pleased that my last post generated some actual discussion. Though it may seem a simple thing to some, its the part of my blog that I really enjoy the most. Don't get me wrong, its always fun standing on my soapbox and shouting madly into the ether but it really feels worthwhile when other voices shout back.

***

In a Facebook post I asked my friends who game...

"The stars align and you have the chance to play your favorite RPG tomorrow with the perfect GM and group. What game is it?"




There were 9 separate responses. The range of players covered people who have gamed with me for anywhere between never and 20 years (there were some responses from friends who game who I've never personally played with). None of those who responded are people that I game with currently. Their ages ranged from mid 20s to mid-to-late 40s. Ethnicities varied greatly. All responders were Male.

1 For Call of Cthulhu
2 For Champions
1 For D&D
1 For Marvel Super Heroes (Classic Marvel RPG) or Mutants & Masterminds
1 For Metamorphosis Alpha/Gamma World
1 For Pathfinder
1 For Shadowrun
1 For Star Trek
1 For Star Wars

In total the post received around 30 comments as we discussed the results and other games we would have added to the list as secondary choices, etc.

My own vote would be Star Trek or Traveller, with the caveat that I'd rather run them than play them.

There were a few surprises in the mix.

I expected the guy who voted for Star Wars to vote for Star Trek. That was seriously jarring. He mentioned really, really liking our old Star Wars campaigns and getting his Star Trek fix recently thanks to Star Trek Online. Personally I feel that statement is a mini-blasphemy but I will let it slide 'cause he is one of my oldest friends.

Another surprise was the vote for Pathfinder, which came from an old friend who moved out to the West Coast and came back recently. This fella was big into Champions, Teenagers From Outer Space, Mekton and other 80's RPGs. Never pegged him as a D&D guy, let alone one who would be into its evolutionary descendant.

One thing I wasn't stunned by was that only two of the nine responses would want to play D&D or a D&D-related game. This simply illustrates what I've noted on this blog many times before; Medieval Fantasy as a genre was simply not the most popular subject for game among the RPGers I've known and gamed with.

***

Tomorrow begins the month of December, last month of the year and very possibly, the last month for the planet if any of the various doomsayers are correct. Of course, they would have to be correct in their understanding of the often misread and mistranslated Mayan calendar and how it applies to the so-called 'End Times'. See you on the 22nd of December.

Now then, I have a plan to do something most unusual for me this December...talk a lot about Dungeons and Dragons.

Specifically, My D&D, the personal 'variant' that I sometimes refer to as D&D-But-Not and D&D-For-Those-Who-Don't-Like-D&D. My biggest fear is that I won't be able to convey how different it is from 'regular' D&D. I've also never shared the rules or setting in all their glory with so many people before. If it wasn't for the potential for planetary extermination and strange celestial events I don't think I would be crazy enough to try.

Wish me luck.

***

Finally, having some thoughts about returning to run something once a month at my FLGS. Not sure what or when or how but the prospect is exciting.

***

Next Stop...Aerth.

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Barking Alien


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Gaming Solo...With A Group

 


I wanted to address a fairly common issue in role-playing games that I have been encountering more and more over the past couple of years and find out what other GMs do about it.

At least I am going to assume its common. Prior to experiencing it off and on (and then more on) since 2007-2008, I never really encountered it before so I am venturing a guess that in falls in line behind other common occurrences I haven't had much experience with like Min Maxing, Power Gaming and Hack n' Slash.

***

From my earliest memories in the hobby to around 2006 (and even a bit after), the groups I played with were made up of good friends who went back a ways. That is to say, the players in these groups were friends, long time acquaintances and even family members for a stretch of time before they were gaming together.

Combined with our rather unusual reference points (we didn't think 'Fellowship of the Ring', we thought 'Justice League of America' and crew of the Enterprise), this high level of camaraderie meant our parties were not just collections of individuals who all had the same idea of ransacking the same dungeon. We were a team. All for one and one for all. The occasional Thief who steals from the party or the Double Agent type character could still be seen from time to time but they never lasted very long. Once revealed, the rest of the group would put them in a world of hurt. They had betrayed The Team.

In my current group, I have a player named Marcus. Marcus is not a team player.

Actually, Marcus can be a team player but prefers to be a lone wolf.

Marcus is the guy who logs on to World of Warcraft (or some other MMORPG) and solos 99% of the time. The second 'M' in MMO, 'Multiplayer', is of no real interest to him. He doesn't team unless he has to or it's with an NPC.

This is how he plays table top RPGs as well. He is in the same party as the other PCs but he is only on their side because he isn't against them. Technically, Marcus' characters are on Marcus' characters' side.

Furthermore, if there is a chance for Marcus' PC to go ahead of the rest of the party and engage the enemy or investigate a haunted tower without them (while the other members of the group research exactly who the enemy is or how to drive the ghosts from the haunted tower), he will do all he can to take advantage of that opportunity.

Sometimes it works in his favor. OK, more often than not it doesn't.

In our last campaign (Champions), his maverick/loner approach got him fired from the SHIELD-type Superhero Support Organization and  ambushed by a clever supervillain.

In our last session of Ars Magica, Marcus attempted to investigate an ancient tower/fort once used by the Vikings on his own (actually his Magus, the Magus' Companion and a young NPC Priest). Meanwhile the other PCs rested from their ordeal the day before. When they woke up, they learned as much as they could about the tower/fort and discovered Marcus' guys were missing. The group decided to take a boat to where the river forks and head for the fort themselves. Eventually Marcus' characters, who were travelling by horse and who made a stop to pick up the Priest NPC, end up arriving at the old haunted tower at virtually the same time as the rest of the PCs travelling by water.

Anyway, I am not posting this to berate Marcus on his particular style of play. I have seen him work together with other players on a number of occasions. The lone wolf approach is his preferred favorite however.

  • Have you experienced this in your games?
  • Do you have a player who tends to want to do his own thing regardless of the rest of the group?
  • Have you done this yourself? Why?
  • Why do people do this?
  • How have you handled it in the past?

One of the games I really want to run with this group (heck any group) is Star Trek but a fellow like Marcus would hate it (and in fact, Marcus said flat out he doesn't want to play Trek). Why? The ranks and military structure of Starfleet would prevent (or at the very least significantly limit) him from being about to go off half-cocked and get himself into trouble or glory without anybody's help.

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Barking Alien