Friday, March 24, 2017

PARADISE FLEET - THE LONG WAY HOME - Part II

I was asked by my good buddy Lord Blacksteel whether or not I had ever run a campaign combining my love of Star Trek style space exploration with Anime style Giant Robot action. 

The answer was...er...is, yes. 

One such game came to mind, and I've decided to do a 'Campaigns I Have Known' series about it. You can find the first installment here:

PARADISE FLEET - THE LONG WAY HOME - Part I






As noted in that previous post, the campaign was run in a somewhat unusual way. It was actually split into two campaigns that ran roughly parallel and occasionally crossed over into each other. I've already covered the characters of the Main Story, a squad of Mecha Pilots serving as the scouts/forward observers of the Combined Operations Space Fleet, sarcastically nicknamed, 'Paradise Fleet'.





Art by Bohao Wong


Here now are the characters of the Side Story - A band of rebels, and renegades within the Fleet that believe Paradise Fleet's Upper Echelon Command is up to something sinister, and whatever it is, it is the reason for all the campaign's hardships. 


Characters: Side Story


Apollo 'Buzz' Byakko, Mercenary Mecha Pilot turned Renegade (played by Aldrin A.)

To supplement their security ranks, it was not unusual for the Corporation Alliance to hire mercenaries. Apollo Byakko was one such hired hand, a member of the White Tiger Mercenary Company. Apollo's homeworld was technically independent and neutral from the major interstellar powers. 

Sarcastic, cynical, and hard edged, Byakko nonetheless found a kindred spirit in Raiden Nekomata and when the latter jumped ship to help for a band of renegade freedom fighters, Apollo joined him. It was about the money any more. It was about finding the truth.

Byakko was a tall, handsome man of mixed Asian descent with black hair (worn somewhat long), and blue eyes. He was muscular, tough, and had numerous small scars from previous battles. He wore a powered armor Mecha Pilot Suit quite different from all the others. It gave him enhanced protection, strength, and stamina. The armor was mainly grey-green in color.

Apollo was a skilled hand-to-hand combatant, with martial arts training, and a mean right hook. He mainly relied on his assault rifle, and vibro blade however. 

He is a decent mecha pilot, with a very impressive robot, but unfortunately the mecha is destroyed really early in the series. Its major weapon was a series of powerful missiles mounted in the chest. In one of the first few battles, an enemy laser melted the chest doors shut as the missiles began to launch. Apollo had to eject as the warheads either hit, or tore through their bay doors, blowing up the robot. He then became the pilot for Haruka Daisuki's Crimson Noble for the rest of the series.

At one point in the story it appeared Apollo might be a double agent, secretly working with the Paradise Fleet Upper Echelon Command to capture the renegades. It was all a set up, and Apollo, and Raiden were able to prove his true allegiance. 

In the last episode of the series Byakko is killed defending Haruka from a hostile alien who was somehow connected to the conspiracy the group was trying to uncover. 

Apollo is named for the Greek God of the Sun, Light, the Truth, and Music, among other things. It is also the name of the US space program that landed the first man on the Moon. Lastly, it is the name of one of the main heroes of the series Battlestar Galactica, from which this campaign took many inspirations. 

Buzz is a reference to the Apollo astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The player, Aldrin Aw, was named for this American hero, and space pioneer, and uses the name Buzz to this day in his profession as a comic book artist.

Byakko is a Japanese mythological beast based on a real animal. The origin of the name comes from the Bai Hu of China, which is a white tiger.


Haruka 'Hime' Daisuki, Renegade Holy Noble Nation Mecha Pilot and Engineer
(played by Elisa ?)

(I don't recall her last name. Gomen nasai.)

Haruka Daisuki was the adopted sister of Reign Daisuki, and an heir to the Duke and Duchess of a minor world in the Holy Noble Nation. Her parents were killed in a battle against the Corporation Alliance, and as such she holds a major grudge against that government. When given to the Duke and Duchess, she had a small charm attached to her ankle that read, 'Hime', which means 'princess'. It remains her nickname throughout the series.

Haruka was dignified, and calm to the point of eeriness. More than once she was accused of being an android. In truth it took massive amounts of effort to keep her emotions in check. She approached things with nearly Vulcan logic, and was the voice of reason in her group more often then not. When she did lose control it was pretty frightening to behold. 

Part of her backstory involved a secret relationship with a Knight of the Holy Noble Nation who did not come accompany the Combined Operations Space Fleet on its mission. Once the Paradise Fleet was lost, this meant she refused any romantic advances from other character (PC or NPC) in favor of waiting to be reunited with her true love. This became the primary motivator of her action during the campaign.

Unlike her 'brother' Reign, Haruka was pale-skinned, with silver gray hair, and gold eyes (It's Anime). She was slim, fit, but not overly muscular, and very pretty. She was not especially tall, being around 5' 5". She was usually garbed in an attractive, slightly revealing outfit of red with white piping, and a red jacket/coat. When she was in her mecha, the 'Crimson Noble' she wore one of the elaborately designed HNN Pilot Suits. 

Although good with a sword, her specialty was [surprisingly] her accuracy with firearms. She often carried a handgun, a carbine, and a long, gauss rifle - a railgun - that could double as a sniper weapon. She was also good at field modifications to her weapons, as well as those of her teammates. 

In her mecha, Hime Daisuki often sat in the Weapon Operators seat, leaving the piloting to her teammate Apollo 'Buzz' Byakko. In addition to her mecha's special capabilities, and weaponry (the 'Twin Noble Force Field' and 'Twin Noble Force Wave'), the Daisuki sister had equipped her robot with a 'Force Buster Cannon' - a hand held, long barreled rifle that used a kinetic energy beam to hurl projectiles with unimaginable strength and speed.

Haruka is a Japanese female name meaning 'distance'. Her last name is Japanese for 'I like you a lot', or 'I love you', hinting at her long distance love affair. Her nickname 'Princess' is a homage to the character Princess from G-Force/Battle of the Planets, known as Jun in the original Science Ninja Team Gatchaman.


Kasha Ailuros, Renegade Jinhua Kinku Empire Mecha Pilot (played by Ana P.)

A Kinkujin (Wild Person) with panther/tiger DNA, Kasha was the daughter of the closet thing the Empire had to nobility. The eldest daughter of a highly honored warrior tribe, she was considered a dishonor when she went rogue to prove the Upper Echelon Command might have been responsible for the fate that had befallen the Combined Operations Space Fleet (see Synopsis coming up).

Kasha was driven, serious, and had little time for your bs. She got along well with her teammates despite this, as the sarcastic Apollo, the headstrong Raiden, and far-too-relaxed Haruka often got on her nerves. Still, she proved her loyalty to them, and they to her, many times over.

Ailuros was a tall, slim, muscular woman standing about 6 ft tall. She was covered in fine, deep red-orange fur, had long black hair, bright blue-green eyes, and cat ears at the top of her head. Unlike many cat Kinkujin, Kasha did have a tail. Her hands had retractable claws that aided her in climbing, and combat. She wore a Mecha Pilot Suit that had a distinctly Egyptian design motif, though her weapons and equipment were distinctly Japanese influenced. Her colors were white, gold, and blue-green. 

Kasha possessed heightened speed, and agility, as well as greater than normal strength compared to a normal Human woman of her size. She also had heightened hearing, and excellent night vision. Ailuros was an accomplished swordswoman, acrobatic, and good at a martial arts style that involved a lot of kicks (I can't recall the name of her style sadly). She carried a katana word, and a laser pistol taken from an opponent, though she rarely used it. 

Her mecha was the same make and model as the one used by Arges Bright (see Part I), a transformable robot that could switch modes between a starfigter, a humanoid, and a hybrid form. The mecha had low power, rapid fire laser guns in its head, and a laser rifle. Instead of the shoulder mounted beam cannons however, Kasha had a blazing plasma sword. She later got an upgrade that enabled her to surround her robot in a burning, sheath of plasma which would protect it somewhat as well as causing damage to anything that made contact with it. 

Kasha is the name of a Japanese cat demon, or spirit that gathers the souls of those who commit evil deeds. Its name means 'burning chariot', and is often depicted as a cat-like humanoid with a fiery tail. Ailuros is the Greek name for the Egyptian Goddess Bast.


Raiden Nekomata, Renegade Corporation Alliance Mecha Pilot (played by Nelson M.)

The son of a genetically engineered 'Big Cat' Kinkujin (Wild Person), and a Network Operator from the Corporation Alliance (Someone who coordinates operations inside the 'Net'), Raiden didn't fit perfectly into either world.

Raiden had a strong sense of personal honor, a very focused moral compass, and a serious issue with authority figures. When his service to the CA, and the Combined Operations Space Fleet ran counter to his personal views he became a renegade seeking to topple those who he believed had misused their positions of power.

Visually Raiden appeared to be a normal, very fit Human male of average height, and mixed Japanese and Latino descent. Closer inspection would reveal slightly pointed ears, and hazel-green cat eyes. His hair was dark brown, with areas of lighter brown, and a shock of auburn red in the front (sometimes falling over one eye - classic Anime). 

Raiden was usually garbed ih his Mecha Pilot Suit which looked virtually identical to the ones worn by Arges Bright, and Hiroto Theseus (see Part I). Nekomata's was mainly black, with fewer white sections, and more red markings.

Nekomata was very fast, and agile. While quite strong, his strength was no where near as impressive as his speed. He had excellent night vision, and a heightened sense of hearing. He was a skilled martial artist, a decent swordsman, and good with other traditional Asian martial melee weapons such as nunchaku, bo staves, and tonfas. He carried a handgun, a tanto blade, a collapsible billy club, and 'chucks'.

In his mecha he was a skilled pilot, good at both hand-to-hand, and melee, and decent with other armaments. His personal mecha had an unusual design, and some very unique weapons. It's overall look was that of a humanoid robot, but certain cat-like attributes adorned the design. In addition to a laser pistol, and shoulder mounted missile racks, he had a double bladed energy sword that could separate into two independent weapons (long before Darth Maul - this weapon was a favorite of the player. A number of his characters have had these over the years). 

Raiden is the name of the mythological Japanese God of Lightning and Thunder. It is also the name of a famous Mecha Anime series. Nekomata is one of the two most common Japanese mythological cat spirits, the other being the Bakeneko.


To be continued...

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Thursday, March 23, 2017

A Last Meal At RavenFeast's Mead Hall





It is with an extremely heavy heart that I must announce the passing of a very old, and very dear friend - Allen Halden, familiar to some of you as 'RavenFeast'.

My focus on Anime and Manga related RPGs of late is due in a large part to Facebook conversations between he and I, and his sending me a package containing various Mekton items recently.

There is no way I can convey the magnitude of my sadness.

More than a fellow gamer, a fellow fan, and a friend, there were moments in my life when he was a teacher, and a brother. He was the kindest, wisest, and most generous example of humanity this world had to offer.

He was funny, clever, well-spoken, and good in the truest sense of the word. He laughed like a lion, hugged like a bear, and smiled like the sun.

This post is not nearly enough of a tribute, but at this moment it is all that I have to give.

I wish I believed in going on to 'a better place'. I can say only that this place is a lesser existence without him.





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Monday, March 20, 2017

PARADISE FLEET - THE LONG WAY HOME - Part I

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
THE LONG WAY HOME






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




Title: PARADISE FLEET - THE LONG WAY HOME

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 government...um, 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...

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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.


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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.


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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."

He...um...what? 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"?


Furthermore...

"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. Having 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 rogues 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 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?

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Barking Alien