Tuesday, May 26, 2015

All Things Seem Possible In May

I partook in a lot of gaming this past weekend.

I played some, I GMed some, and I talked a lot about the craft.

I also listened to a lot. Somethings I agreed with, somethings I didn't, but as with any good conversation, it all made me think.

I unequivocally believe that many of the things I disagree with, I am wrong about, and I just haven't had the experiences that will cause me to come to similar conclusions.

As to the things I did agree with, well, I could still be wrong about those things too. There is a point however, where you have to accept that you've learned a thing to two over the years.

As with any subject, there will always be varying opinions which are neither right, nor wrong.

This got me pondering my opinion of my own skill as a Gamemaster.

You see, I suffer from low self-esteem, a lack of confidence. It's something I struggle with constantly. There are about three things in this world I feel I do especially well:


Swimming
Handling Dogs
Gamemastering


Sure, I do a few other things well, like teaching, imitating voices and sound effects, kissing (or so I've been told), but honestly past that I often feel a bit like a spent too many skill points on too few skills.

Where's this post going you might ask? Well you might. How should I know what you're saying. It's not like I can hear you. What? Oh yes, sorry, back on track...

So I consider myself a good GM. Maybe, dare I think it, even a really good one. Great? I didn't say great. If someone said great I'm not going to argue, but you didn't hear great from me.

But, am I very good at everything? Not...really...


THE
'WHAT ARE YOU GOOD AT'
GM CHALLENGE!


 

Giant Robot Avengers.*
I could run the crap outta this.
 

What genres, settings, or games in general do you GM best? Which ones do you think you  totally rock?

My Top Five:

Star Trek
Star Wars
Superheroes (Specifically Silver-Bronze Age, Four Color Comics Superheroes)
Giant Robots (Of the Japanese Anime variety - not Battletech/MechWarrior)
Muppets


Which games could you use to work on? That is, if your group wants to play one of these games, you yourself would probably recommend a different GM.

My Bottom Three:

Dungeons & Dragons (Traditional, Old School style)
Call of Cthulhu (And similar style horror)
Post Apocalypse (I can do it...but I really don't get it)


What elements of Gamemastering do you do best? What aspects do you nail more often than not?

My Top Five

Interesting NPCs
Funny Voices, and Sound Effects
Mysteries
Splitting the Party
World Building


Which elements are still a work in progress? Name some things that you don't do as well as you'd like.

My Bottom Three

Knowledge of Rules/Mechanics
Adequate Challenges (Used to be great at this - now, I'm too easy on players)
Heavy Buy-In (If you get it, you'll love it. If you don't, it's hard for me to explain it to you)


NOW IT'S YOUR TURN!
 

I challenge my fellow blogging Gamemaster to fess up, and tell us the five games you are great at running, three that you're not so hot with, five reasons why you consider yourself a good GM (or feel you are viewed as such by others), and three things you feel you need work on.

Why? For No Real Reason! Woot!

Wait...no...it's because then we can go into discussing why this is. How come we ace some games, but have trouble with others? Can we help each other? Can the master of Post Apocalypse gaming out there help me get a handle on that genre? Can I assist someone in improving their Mecha campaign, or brushing up on their mystery adventures?

Let's find out.

Also, just curious.

AD
Barking Alien


PS: Happy Birthday Sally Ride, the first woman in space!

PSS: *Marvel Gundam Characters by Aburaya Tonbi.






Monday, May 25, 2015

Come What May

This post, and the two before it, are linked in a number of ways.

They were all inspired by conversations with fellow gamers. They all follow, or are connected to, a similar train of thought (though they are periodically derailed by other ideas - it is me after all). Finally, all the post titles are lines from Shakespeare.

Freaky.

OK, maybe not freaky. Neat though.


***


I was discussing Plumbers in my last post, a type of player that focuses wholeheartedly on their own PC, for better, or for worse. Probably a bit of both.

The Plumber creates a character of great scope, nuance, and depth, but tends to ignore, or at the very least deemphasizes, everything else in the campaign. They can be the source of fantastic stories, subplots, and some top shelf drama and angst (often self-inflicted). They can also be scene stealing, moment hogging, self-absorbed pains in keister.

Now, as awesome, and difficult, as it can be to have a Plumber, having two competing for center stage can make even the most flexible, and resilient Gamemaster want to throw their hands up, and the players out a window.

If my own experience is any indication, the two stars will battle for top billing, and eventually turn on each other. While the nature of this conflict will vary, inadvertently it will be 'great television', but bad for the campaign as a whole. A game can certainly survive this kind of confrontation, but not without a few scars.


***


Knowing that I have these personalities among my group's number, what do I do now? How do I defend the next game against the issues that threatened to damage, or helped to wreck past ones?

To begin with, I have to note, both to my readership out there, and to myself, that Plumbers are far from my only obstacle. There are a number issues that must be overcome to create a great gaming experience for my mainstay group, though not so many as to be insurmountable. Were the obstacles to far outweigh the potential for enjoyment, I wouldn't bother to try, and fix them. Better to cut my loses in that scenario, and find a new group.

No, that's not what is happening here. What is happening is that there are some wires crossed, and I need to unplug everything, then make sure it's all plugged back in the right way.

Now, as to what to do with Plumbers:

If no one is having an issue with the scene-stealing, show-boater...er, um...dedicated, method actor (or actors), don't worry about it too much. They may frustrate  you (the GM) on occasion, but their activities are less problematic to a campaign's structure than they are to the group's interpersonal dynamic (usually).

Only the other hand, if the Plumber is getting on the nerves of the rest of the group (players, GM, or both), you need to do something about it.

First things first. If you have a player who displays the negative aspects of the Plumber, or any behavior detrimental to the rest of the group's enjoyment of the game, address it with them. Address it with the player in question, address with the group separately, but don't let it sit, and fester. Sometimes making people aware of a thing is all it takes to fix it.

Sometimes not.

Often (at least in my experience) the Plumber is only vaguely aware that they are being the Plumber.

They notice, for example, that they are very interested in their own character's personality, and motivations, but don't realize they are ignoring the game world around them. They know they're excited about following through with their particular character's story, and background, but don't see that their immediate, and/or constant pursuit of it takes the spotlight away from other PCs.

A little reminder now, and then can't hurt. This can range from politely pointing it out, to straight up saying, "You had your moment, and your scene. Let this person have theirs. It's not only about your PC". The approach you take should be based on how severe the Plumber's self-absorbance is, how well you know the player, what's worked in the past, and what hasn't, and of course, what you the GM feel comfortable with.

If you have more than one Plumber, you may have to work doubly hard to keep things from spiraling out of control. Of course, if one Plumber is manageable, while the other isn't, get rid of the troublemaker. I want to make it clear that I view this as a last resort, but a resort nonetheless.

Anyone else have any thoughts on the subject? I'd love to hear them.

Happy Memorial Day Everyone, and a great, big, Barking Alien Thank You to our men, and woman of the armed forces. Also to the canines serving this country, who hold a very special place in my heart.

AD
Barking Alien

PS: A number of notable, recent passings I'd like to acknowledge on this day.

Anne Meara, actress, comedian, playwright, wife of Jerry Stiller, mother of Ben Stiller, passed away on Saturday, May 23rd, at the age of 85.

John Forbes Nash, Jr., the Nobel Prize winning American Mathematician who was the subject of the film, A Beautiful Mind, was killed in a traffic collision on the 23rd, along with his wife Alicia. He was 86.

PSS: To offset the sadness of these passing even a bit, I would like to wish a Happy Birthday today to actor, director, puppeteer, and all around amazing fellow Frank Oz. Frank is well known to Barking Alien fans for his work with the Muppets, and as the voice, and performer for Yoda, in the original Star Wars trilogy. Have a great one Frank, and many more!

Oh, and I had a date today. No foolin'.

See you soon!





Wednesday, May 20, 2015

More Matter for a May Morning

Man oh man! Am I behind on my May posts or what?

I have so much planned, so much I want to talk about this month, and new ideas for posts are coming at me all the time. That said, it's already the 20th, and I am no where near where I wanted to be in my self-proposed, poorly executed blogging schedule.

Damn. That's right, I said damn.

OK, these post aren't going to write themselves. I better get cracking.
 
First, let's continue where we left off yesterday...


***
 
 
My good pal WQRobb over at Graphs, Papers, and Games, and I had a great conversation one night where he mentioned The Plumber, a player type described in Aaron Allston's brilliant Strike Force supplement.

 
Did someone call for a plumber?




No! Not those kind of plumbers.
 
 
 

No! Not that kind either.


A Plumber in this case is a type of player whose gaming enjoyment comes from exploring the depths of their own PC's character. This means, essentially, that the part of the RPG gaming experience they like the most is the part where they get to role play their character, explore their character's motivations, goals, backgrounds, and anything else that forms that which is their PC.

Plumbers are great for developing in-depth backstories, and being proactive in pursuit of plots, and subplots that involve their characters.

The drawback is that they often have very little interest in, or interaction with, the other PCs, the NPCs, and the world/setting, unless such individuals, or things pertain to their PC, its interests, plans, etc.

Now many groups have a least one Plumber among them. Not every group, but a decent number I'd wager. Enough that Aaron Allston put it in his Strike Force book, and both WQRobb, and I were able to say, "Oh yeah. I've seen that."

One can be tricky. Two in a small group can be a problem, although in a large group not so much.

Two very prominent ones in a group of 5 or 6 players, and yeah, it's an issue.

Welcome to my world.

Among the biggest problems with the Plumbers is that they hog the spotlight. I have seen situations where they don't let the other players have their own moments with their own PCs, or they constantly butt into those moments when the Plumbers own PC is no where nearby. In modern, and futuristic settings they often claim a convenient omnipresence, usually via some form of communicator, or perhaps a telepathic power.

Generally, I think bringing it to the Plumbers attentions is sufficient to begin moving things in the right direction. Most Plumbers don't realize they're hogging the spotlight. They are just really excited to play their characters. Unfortunately, to the GM, and their fellow players, what it begins to look like is that the Plumber is not interested in the other characters, PCs and NPCs alike, and that they don't care for/about the world the GM has created for them.

When you have two Plumbers, you have classing spotlights. It becomes a very 'Bugs Bunny/Daffy Duck' kind of situation. Each vying to be the star of the show, eventually one starts to do more, and more outlandish stunts to grab the groups attention. This usually backfires, causing the group to look to the other Plumber for stability, and a sense of what to do next.

While this is going on, all the other characters will seem secondary, unless the GM is acutely aware of what is going on. It's up to the Gamemaster to make sure he, or she gives ample opportunities to the other players to have their PCs do, and be something awesome.

Competing Plumbers can potentially kill a campaign. They can also make it really exciting. It all depends on the players' level of maturity, the people wrangling skills of the GM, and the other players acceptance, or defiance of their roles as supporting cast.

Now, picture if one of these Plumbers also...bugger, out of time. I'm off to work.

Until later then,

AD
Barking Alien






Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Rough Winds Do Shake The Darling Buds of May

Portions of this post come from a text conversation I had with my friend Marcus, a phone conversation with my friend Rob, and an email conversation I am having with another friend, Dan. I have tried to use as much of the wording verbatim as possible, but some of it has been paraphrased, extrapolated, and of course added to.



 
 
Barkley always dresses up when I use
a Shakespeare quote for a post title.


I've been a bit discouraged, and even bitter of late in regards to the games I've been a part of, with a few exceptions. I want to apologize to the GMs who work hard to make for an entertaining evening of dice slinging, and story-telling.

My frustration comes from my feelings toward my own gaming group, our difficulties in executing a long term campaign beyond our current one, and the RPG campaign I intend to run with them once Traveller - Operation: PALADIN concludes.
 
Let me be perfectly clear about what I mean.

I love these guys. They're a great bunch of friends, and good, honest, solid Human beings.
 
Our Traveller game has been fantastic. Seriously one of my best campaigns ever, especially with regard to the depth of character, and personality shown in the PCs. 100% Pure Awesome Sauce.
 
Anything else we try crashes, and burns.

Now, I'm sure a lot of it is me. I'm the Gamemaster after all, and it's my responsibility to make sure it all works. Not without player assistance mind you, but in the end, a campaign's failure weighs heavily on my brow because I see it as my fault it didn't take. Sometimes the players think it has taken, but I don't like it, or where I can see it going, and I kill it. Again that's on me.

Bottom line is I'm the one who figures out how to make the magic happen, and the one who wonders what I missed, what I could've done better, when the magic doesn't show, or goes away.

It isn't all me either though. I've run many a great campaign over the last 37+ years. I've only had major difficulties in the last five years or so.

So what happened?

A major factor is that there are expectations, opinions, and ideas that each of us have that are so intrinsic to our natures, so ingrained, they can't be explained to others. If they can, perhaps they can not be easily understood. Very often, we aren't even aware that we think the way we do, as we've never had to look at it before.

Superheroes is this for me. I've been reading Superhero comic books since before I could read, watched innumerable cartoons, live-action TV shows, and movies, and tried to use D&D to run an X-Men game before I knew there were Superhero RPGs. I went to art school hoping to become a comic book artist.

I can recommend a list of comics you should read to play in one of my Superhero games, tell you which Superhero RPGs I prefer (I've played practically every one ever made), and I can give my players a 20 page handout on what our campaign will be like...but none of that matters if you don't get Superheroes that way I do.
 
The conclusion I've come to after pondering this profusely, and looking back on being a popular GM for so many of my friends for so many years is not going to be a popular one. It's one that any sane, creative person (an oxymoron?) will tell you to avoid like the plague.

Cater to your audience.
 
Fandom entertainment should, in my humble opinion, buck the tradition of giving the audience what the studio execs think the public wants, and instead try giving the audience what it actually wants to see.

I fear, in violation of my own instincts, and long years of experience, I have been playing the part of Hollywood, and DC Comics. Emboldened by previous successes, and focused on perceived potential rather than practicality, I have forgone listening to my own advice, and someone has thankfully called me on it.

I came to this mad epiphany this past Friday while texting with my friend, and player Marcus. I can't believe it, but sometimes this dude has amazing insights.

He wrote:

"If you make the game about the game, not the PCs, but about the story, they [the group] are not going to like it."

Our [RPG group's] Traveller campaign works, not because they (the players) made characters for my game, or my story, but rather because I made a story based on their characters.

Every other game we've tried has failed because I am trying to get them to make characters for this game idea I have.

I realized today - No! No, no, no! That's all wrong. That doesn't work for this group. It doesn't work best for a lot of groups. I need to create a story I like based on the characters they make. It's the approach I've taken so many times in the past, but thought that I could get a little more experimental. A little more, dare I say, 'New Jersey Group'.

Now, it must still be a story I like. It must be a genre I enjoy. But as GM, I'm the host, the MC, the person there to entertain them. After all, don't we as GMs feel a rush when our players say what a great game we ran? On the other hand, if we have a ball, but they hated it, and never want to game with us as GM ever again, who suffers? Who wins?

Marcus warned me that, although this may be the key to creating another game as great as the Traveller one, it comes with a price...

"If you do it the other way...if you focus on the PCs first, and everything else second...you might have to deal with self-absorbed PCs."

Marcus is right again, but I feel like I'm going to have to deal with that anyway. It's the nature of many of the players in the group. I might as well get a good game out of it, right?

You see, I've got a few Plumbers in the group.

But that's a bit of business to be told on the 'morrow.

AD
Barking Alien



 

Monday, May 18, 2015

May Monday Muppet Madness

This past week, and weekend, were quite hectic. I have three, or four posts in draft form waiting to be finished, and posted. While working on these posts, preparing for future games, and attending to my Real Life TM, I came to notice that the 16th of May had passed without a proper Barking Alien mention.

I can't let that be the case, so although belated, I want to commemorate the passing of perhaps my biggest inspiration, my greatest hero - Jim Henson.






I usually prefer to honor his birthday on this site each year in September rather than note his day of passing in May. I should make it clear that this year is no different. However, it's been a long time since he left us, 25 years now, and it seemed appropriate somehow to remind us all of his outstanding contribution to our collective culture, and our imaginations.

Jim Henson, as much, or more  than anyone else in the history of entertainment, and learning (through Sesame Street), has bestowed upon the world an unending supply of the gift that will never tarnish, never fade, and never go out of style.

Laughter. The third greatest gift you can give someone.






Rest in peace Jim.


Oh, silly me, I had some good news to deliver as well...


THERE IS A NEW, PRIMETIME MUPPETS TV SERIES
COMING THIS FALL!





*Pant-pant-pant-weeze*
 
 
OMG! OMG! OMG!
 
I'm a touch excited.
 
Coming this fall season on ABC, the new series, simply titled 'the muppets.', will take my already viewing heavy Tuesday, and truly put it over the edge. I hardly watch television, but for some reason the three or four shows I do watch are all on Tuesday. What the heck is that about?
 
The series will be done in a mockumentary style, with cuts to one-on-one interviews, and other elements that will give you a behind the scenes look into the character personal lives. It is a more adult take on the Muppets, but not in a risqué way. Instead, it seems like it's more set for primetime, as opposed to being aimed at kids.
 
Personally, I think this is a great idea, although they'll have to watch that fine line between mature, and too mature for those hoping to see an all ages Muppet show. In my opinion, this will work if they periodically do movies that are more accessible to everyone (like The Muppets, and Muppets Most Wanted).


I am really looking forward to this, and hope it'll give me some new insight, and material for my Muppets RPG, which I am also eager to get back to working on.

Jim, you done good. Your legacy continues as strong as ever.

Have a Muppet Monday everybody!

AD
Barking Alien






Friday, May 15, 2015

May The Wind Be On Our Backs

Posting has been nigh impossible lately as I've been busy with, well, so many things I don't even know where to begin.

Luckily, I have had the time to get some gaming in, including a Star Trek campaign with my alternate group here in NY.

While the gaming schedule for this particular group can be best described as 'haphazard', I am very pleased to say that Star Trek: Prosperity, once merely a hopeful series of one-shots, has indeed blossomed into a true, full-on, Star Trek RPG campaign.



 
 
Ventura Class Starship
Design and Illustration By John Byrne.


Furthermore, as we approach the end of the initial story-arch I put together, I let the group know that 'Season One' would close with our next session. I gave them the option of ending the campaign there, and I could run something else, or continuing with these characters, and this campaign for a 'Season Two'.

I am happy to say that the group unanimously voted to continue with the adventures of the USS Prosperity and its crew.

While we had some bumps in the road early on, attributed to differences in playstyles, and expectations, the group and I (as Gamemaster) have gelled well overall, resulting in a game that works, and is fun for everyone.

Now I'm sure that's almost like my saying, "Good gaming group with good game is good", to a lot of people. If the players and GM are on the same page, the game has a likely chance of being enjoyable, and successful. If they aren't, it won't. Duh.

Well, there is a bit more to it than that...





Ship and Planet By John Byrne
Background from NASA
 

Compromise has been path to success, and in meeting everyone halfway, we discovered something new lying where our journeys met.

Some feel (and with very good reason) that compromise is a dirty word. Campaign design by committee may sound too hippy-dippy for you conservative, OSR types, but I've found it produces some really positive results. In fact, as was the case here, it created a whole new kind of playstyle for a game, and a setting, I've run dozens upon dozens of times before.

I declared at the very beginning of the campaign that the game would be set in the Original Series era of Star Trek, around the end of the first TV show's second season, but before the third (and final) season. The reason for this choice was that the group mostly consisted of older players who, like myself, preferred and were more familiar with TOS, or so I thought.

In addition to giving everyone a pretty clear idea of what kind of technology the PCs would have access to, what uniforms they'd be wearing, the look of the starships, and other spacecraft, etc., the choice of era helped define the overall themes, and pacing of the sessions.

In comparison to The Next Generation, which features a lot more technobabble and problem-solving via staff meetings, the Original Series is more action packed, and deals with 'cowboy diplomacy' in many cases.

What I found (actually what we as a group found) was that many of the players were more familiar with The Next Generation, and post-TNG than expected. In addition, most of them liked the TNG approach, or rather the TNG/DS9 approach, to problem solving.

With the exception of the fellow playing the captain, the group is less inclined to get into battles, whether it be fisticuffs, or phaser fights. While they liked the look, and rough and tumble nature of the Original Series' version of the Star Trek universe, they largely preferred to handle obstacles after thorough investigation, and through the clever use of technology.

The end result has been a campaign with an overall feeling that it's a true hybrid of the sensibilities of both TOS and TNG. The series itself is largely episodic like the Original Series, but each adventure has had a component that connects it to the next. In addition, from the first session to the most recent, the PC's vessel has been carrying representatives of an alien species back to their homeworld.

The aliens in question, representatives of the Dramian people, are not hostile to the Federation, but nor are they allies. They have been suffering through outbursts of a plague on the colony world of Dramia II, and the captain and crew of the Prosperity have offered to help them combat it. In addition to saving lives, it is the captain's hope that our efforts will improve relations between the UFP and Dramia I (aka Dramia, or Dramen Prime).

With the next session, I hope to get to the bottom of the mystery that's been running through the game so far, and deal with the Dramian situation to some sort of conclusion (even if temporary).

After that, well as I stated near the beginning of this post, I guess I get to work planning Season 2.

Ahead Helm, Warp Factor 4,

AD
Barking Alien


Sadly, this post took much longer to write, and post then I intended. I am late in noting the passing of yet another Star Trek alum.




Grace Lee Whitney, who portrayed Yeoman Janice Rand in the original Star Trek series, and several related movies, passed away of natural causes on May 1st, 2015. Ms. Whitney was 85 years of age.




Tuesday, May 5, 2015

May is the Age of Ultron

What better way is there to start off a new month than with a Marvel Cinematic Universe motion picture?

I know. I can't think of anything else either.

Lucky for us True Believers, it just so happens one came out on the first of this month!

No really!

Avengers 2: Age of Ultron was released in the USA on Friday, March 1st, and yours truly has seen it.

What did I think? Well, since you asked...






I don't do a lot of reviews, and when I do, it's either because the product is very good, very bad, or I have some kind of strong feeling about the subject matter it pertains to one way, or another.

There's no need to keep you all in suspense with my opinion on it. I loved it. I thought it was great. I'll honestly say I liked it more than the first film. I can't say it was a better film (I think the first one was better crafted), but I enjoyed myself even more, and I enjoyed the heck out of the previous Avengers.

Why did I like it more? Well...


SPOILERS!
SHIELD PASSWORD AUTHORIZATION REQUIRED


THE GOOD

There was a lot of good in Age of Ultron.

To begin with, this movie starts 'in media res', with the Avengers doing what a superhero team should be doing, kicking villain ass. We don't need too much of a back story in regards to why they're there, or how they found the bad guys because after a few moments of smart, snappy dialog, it all makes sense.

Yes, many of the details on what lead to the Avengers assault on Baron Strucker's Hydra Base were revealed on Marvel's Agents of SHIELD TV series, but it's not necessary to have seen Agents of SHIELD to get that the good guys have found the bad guys' secret clubhouse, and are going to lay the smackdown on its residents in short order.

The movie than moves at the speed of need: Quick, and clever for establishing character, slow, and serious for the deep philosophical conversations (with a quip or two thrown in to keep in line with the overall style of the film's narrative), and then revved up to super-fast, and frantic when it was time for battle sequences.

Timing people. Timing is key. It is the key to comedy, it is the key to exciting combat scenes, and it is most certainly the key to holding it all together. Mr. Whedon, kudos to you sir. You've mastered timing, and thereby mastered the universe. Of the film that is.

The introduction of the new characters was brilliantly done. When is an origin story not an origin story? When it is told as either natural sounding exposition dialog (Maria Hill briefing Captain America about the Maximoff twins, Quicksilver and Scarlet Witch), or it occurs as part of the entire story's larger plot (The Vision).

Can we talk about the Vision for a moment? Thanks.





HOLY $^*/! THEY HAD THE VISION IN THIS MOVIE!
 

The Vision ranks up there as one of my top ten, maybe even top five, favorite Superhero comic book characters of all time. He is also a character that I long ago resigned myself to never seeing in a movie, on TV, or in any other mainstream medium. Bless you Whedon, Feige, Marvel Studios, and Disney for proving me wrong.

They didn't just put the Vision in the movie, they gave us a coherent origin for him that was a major element of the plot. They didn't just give us a plot centered origin, they gave him a look very much like that of the comic book Vision. He didn't just look like the comic book Vision, he waxed philosophically like his comic book counterpart. He didn't just wax philosophically, he KICKED FREAKIN' BUTT!*

DC can't get a heroic Superman to work, or figure out a Wonder Woman movie, but Marvel can get people to cheer for an android barely 5-10 minutes after he awakens for the first time ever. WTF DC?!

Ahem.

Lastly, 'cause I could easily go on for pages, and pages with what was good about this movie, I have to give credit to James Spader, and Ultron.

While I love Tom Middleton's Loki, I think Ultron is my favorite Marvel Cinematic Universe villain thus far. Aside for his voice, expertly done by James Spader, he was the first villain in a Marvel movie to seem like he served the purpose of a comic book supervillain. He was equal parts intelligent and mad, humorous and menacing, creepy and sad. He loomed over normal people. He concocted a bizarre, over-the-top scheme, and then went toe-to-toe with Thor. Thor! Awesomeness that left right off a comic book splash page.


THE BAD

There...there was no bad.

Don't get me wrong, there were imperfections, minor blemishes, and tiny flaws. Nothing is perfect. Some parts could have used a bit more clarification, while others seemed a tad rushed. More cameos by other heroes in the Marvel Phase Three line up would've been neat, and the post credits seen is very short, and nothing truly new.

Still...there was no bad. At no point did I think anything sucked. Nothing looked bad, sounded uncool, or didn't work for me.

That's pretty damn impressive.


THE UGLY

The only thing I could put in this category is so much of a spoiler that I'd feel like a jerk if I revealed it. It was a sudden, and sad moment. It bummed me out. It was also inevitable I suppose.


***


In conclusion, I'm giving it 4.75 out of 5 stars.
Three thumbs up (I borrowed another guy's hand. Don't worry, I'll give it back.).
Excellent! I want to see it at least one more time, before it's out on DVD/Blu-Ray.

If you haven't see it yet, well, it was stupid of you to read this spoiler filled review. It was clearly marked as having 'SPOILERS' right from the start. What the heck is the matter with you?

If you have, AWESOME right?! Yeah! Let's go see it again. Maybe Saturday? Let me know.

Take care everyone, and this May, MAKE MINE MARVEL!

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Barking Alien


*This started to sound like, "How is this night different from all other nights..." Heh. My Jewish friends will get it.





Monday, May 4, 2015

May the Fourth Be With You

What a time to be a Star Wars fan, huh?




"Beep-boop, Deet - Beep beep - Boop!"
 
Translation:
Holy Mother-of-Skywalker!
 

Last month, the annual Star Wars Celebration event in Anaheim, California released a Hutt load of information, pictures, and video footage on the upcoming projects Disney, and their acquisition Lucasfilm, have in store for fans of the franchise this year.

Chief among the presents Uncle Walt gave us was a new teaser trailer for Star Wars - Episode VII: The Force Awakens.



 
Are those new X-Wing fighters?
Flying in formation?
In an atmosphere, and over water?
In DAYLIGHT?
 
Yes. Yes they are goddamnit.
 
 
While some were not moved by this trailer, those people have no hearts, or perhaps they have blackened, corrupted souls lost to the Dark Side of the Force. Others (like myself), gasped, cheered, and cried real man-tears. Even the women.
 
It was exactly what a teaser trailer should be; it was short enough not to reveal too much, but showed just enough of the awesome to make you want to see more.
 
I'll be honest, J.J. Abrams is leading the charge on this one, and I have little love, and practically no faith, in that man's ability to make a good movie. Add to that the downer the Prequels turned out to be, and I looked upon the initial announcement of new, Post-Return of the Jedi Star Wars films with a bitter-sour mix of geek pain, and cinema lover contempt.
 
That was before the first teaser trailer. I got a little excited, though I still figured Abrams would be letting us down. Then, after the second teaser trailer, oh what the hell, I'm in!
 
I could go on, and on about how cool all the little bits and pieces were, but instead I'm going to direct your attention to the additional WOW! that was revealed after this trailer debuted.
 
 
 
 
These were some group's Player Characters.
No doubt about it.
 
 
I'm quite taken with the Disney XD, CGI animated series Star Wars: Rebels, and the trailer for the show's second season looks pretty damn cool.
 
I've recommended the series to a friend, and he's not really loving it, but it took me a while to warm up to the show as well.  I do hope he comes around, especially since the next season looks so good, and I'd love to compare notes with my buddy.
 
Why? Well, aside from it being fun to discuss such things with like minded people, he and I are looking at running some Star Wars games. Personally (and I think I may have mentioned it before) I think Star Wars: Rebels feels exactly like a Star Wars D6 RPG campaign, right down to the clearly denoted  character types/templates. If I wasn't inspired to run a Star Wars game by the Force Awakens trailer, that one plus this one put me over the edge.
 
Wait...we're not done...
 
 
 
That's no moon.
 
 
Star Wars: Rogue One is the first of a series of films called 'The Anthology' movies. This first one will be a separate, spin-off film that takes place after Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith, and Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Basically, Rogue One should be happening around the same time as Star Wars: Rebels, or just after it (maybe around a theoretical Season 3, or 4).
 
The story will focus on a group of normal Rebel Soldiers, without the assistance of any Jedi, or other Force using individuals, who plan on stealing the Death Star plans. The very same plans Princess Leia will place inside R2-D2 in the original Star Wars film.  
 
It sounds very interesting to me, and I like the fact that they are talking about a female lead, and a slightly less black, and white morality. Honorable villains, and heroes willing to lie, and cheat seem a strong possibility.
 
I guess that about wraps up...WRONG! Oh no, no. One more thing...
 
 
 
 
I don't have time to get into another computer ga...Oh OK. 
 
 
Star Wars: Battlefront is a new action/combat game set in the Star Wars universe, produced by Electronic Arts. It features both single and multiplayer modes, and you can view the game from a first-person shooter perspective, or third-person perspective.
 
While I am not as much of a computer or video game fan as some (many) of my friends are, I think I may have to check this one out. The original Battlefront games were pretty damn good, and this one is shaping up to be very interesting indeed. Check out the amazing trailer for it, and keep a sharp eye out for updates.
 
 
***
 
 
Late last year I made a post wherein I mentioned that between the first Star Wars: The Force Awakens teaser trailer, and the first season of Star Wars: Rebels, I was pretty jazzed to run a Star Wars RPG game. Add in everything I've mentioned here, and it's like...like millions of voices crying out for adventure that can not be silenced.
 
There is a tranquility in the Force. I've got a good feeling about this.
 
This is, of course, despite a rather lackluster performance on my part when I decided to run the West End Games, D6 version of the Star Wars RPG over Google Hangouts a few weeks back. It wasn't a very good outing on my part, at least in my opinion. The players had fun, or at least said they did, but it really wasn't up to snuff with what I know I can do with that setting, and system.
 
It just so happens that a buddy of mine has started running a series of 'related one-shots' of Star Wars in which we play the same characters each time, but the sessions are much more episodic then your standard, ongoing campaign. The adventures relate to each other only in the most general sense, outside of the reoccurring PCs. It's pretty fun, and I get to be an Astromech Droid, so it's full of win from where I'm sitting.
 
In the end, all this combines to fuel my desire to run a Star Wars campaign even more. It really is one of my favorite RPGs ever, and it deserves to be recognized as such, and treated well (much like the franchise itself).
 
Which reminds me...
 
Charles Atkins over at DYVERS is doing this awesome PDF project in which a bunch (I'm talking about something like twenty, or more) bloggers each describe their favorite RPG, and what is so awesome about it. Neat huh? It's got some really good writer involved, covering a wide range of games.
 
I will be joining in on this project myself* with an entry on none other than Star Wars D6 by West End Games.
 
I need to meditate, feel the Force around me, flowing through me, connecting me to all living things. Once this happens, I figure I should be ready to write my entry, and maybe even run another Star Wars session. Right? I mean, it couldn't hurt.
 
 
The Force Will Be With Us...Always.
 
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Barking Alien
 

*I'm going to do a second entry on the Star Trek RPG by Last Unicorn Games. Why? Because Star Trek damn it.

 

 
 

Friday, May 1, 2015

May Be, and May Be Not

What the hell is it about April, huh? That's one b^*$! of a month.

Thankfully, it's over now, and this month is bound to be better. Plus, no themes, no challenges, nothing of the sort to distract me from just saying whatever it is I want to say. At least none I'm planning on participating in.

So what do I want to say? Well for starters...

I have a new plan going forward in regards to my gaming schedule. I have decided that I will not be running any other campaigns outside of my ongoing, monthly Classic Traveller game (Operation: PALADIN, its 30th session was played on Saturday, April 18th), and my (very) roughly, monthly Last Unicorn Games Star Trek game (Star Trek: Prosperity).






Basically, there will be no secondary campaign for my main group until Operation: PALADIN has concluded. Once the Traveller campaign has ended (and it will end), I will be ready to do the final preparations for a new game.

What I would like to have happen though is for pre-production on our next campaign to begin soon. Preferably, I'd like to get the ball rolling this month. If I can start my prep for the next campaign now, I will likely work out most of the kinks, and have oodles of material ready for when it begins.

I have no idea what I am going to run as of this moment. I hope to come up with something soon, obviously, so I can follow through with my aforementioned plans.

I know I want to avoid the genre of Superheroes, which simply hasn't worked for us as a group. I'll probably avoid Science Fiction too close to Traveller, although a desire to run Star Wars is nagging at me something fierce.

True, Traveller, and Star Wars can be very different, but they can easily fall into similar styles, and patterns. Our last Traveller session for example, had a very Star Wars-y, last minute escape at the end.

The thing of it is, while this is definitely one of the best campaigns I've ever run (see an upcoming post updating the status of things in our Traveller campaign - Coming Soon! - this post has a lot of 'soon' doesn't it?), I would like to take try something different to prevent stagnation. The last thing I want to do is be viewed as a one trick pony, or suffer from genre/game burnout.

It may seem like I am back to square one, still unable to conceive of a game for my group other than Traveller, I don't see it that way. I've made progress. I know I need to finish my current campaign before I start another. I know what kind of games I don't want to run. I am getting a better idea of what works with the group, and far more importantly why. I see the pitfalls, and I am compiling tools to fix, or get around them.

An answer is on the horizon. I sense it.

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Barking Alien