Saturday, April 7, 2018

Player Profiles - Allen Halden

I had always intended on posting a Player Profile of my long time friend, and gaming buddy Allen Halden, but never in a million years would I have imagined I'd be doing it posthumously.





The most recent photo I could find.

This man's pinky knew more than your whole head.



I first met Allen about 25 years ago, when two of my New York friends introduced me to a group of like minded individuals who all met at the home of twin brothers who lived in New Jersey.

The brothers Moriarty had a pretty big house, and it had apparently become a mecca for gamers, comic books fans, Anime/Manga otaku, and pop culture geeks of every shape, size, and denomination. All races, cultures, ages, religions, genders, income levels, and every other manner of people were (and are to my knowledge) welcome. 

The house, to this day, is known by the nickname, 'Strike Force Moriarty' (bonus points if you get that reference). 

Allen and I didn't immediately become friends. Barely acquaintances. There were just too many people coming in and out of the house, talking about too many things. It would be a handful of visits before he, and I spoke at length. 

There was one particular RPG campaign being run at the house that some friends I already had, or had made, were involved with, and that's where I first connected with Allen. The game was based on Sentai, the Japanese live-action superhero phenomena that we Americans appropriated and turned into the 'Power Rangers' franchise. The number of players in this campaign was huge, a dozen or so, though neither I, nor Allen were involved.

It was a running gag that Allen wanted in, and he said that alongside Red Dragon, Blue Dolphin, Golden Hawk, etc. he could be...(looking down at his own violently chartreuse t-shirt)...The Lime Green Wombat!

Ah, yes...one of Allen's many nicknames. The Lime Green Wombat. The Finicky Barbarian. Player of Freaks.

I digress...

Anyway, I knew at that moment this fellow was my kind of guy. 







Photo of Christmas Past



Over the next two decades and change, he and I would become close friends, and game together a lot. For the majority of our RPG interactions I was the GM, but on rare occasions I would get to play in one of his games. He was an excellent GM, but I will speak more about his GMing legacy a bit later.

Allen was an amazing player. Amazing.

He was equally adept at logic puzzles, combat tactics, and in-depth characterization.

I was the best GM I could be with Allen as a player. I could create complex mysteries, tough opponents, and challenging environments, because Allen could handle them all. Best of all, he knew how to work with the strengths of the other players, and how to compensate for their weaknesses, as well as his own. 

Over the years this became more than a gaming group, and Allen more than my friend. We were brothers, and this was our family.






Here he is demonstrating how foolish it is for normal crooks
(represented by yours truly) to go up against Superheroes,
or as he called them, 'Gods in Long Underwear'.



He had an incredibly analytical mind, with the kind of deductive reasoning capabilities that would make Batman and Sherlock Holmes jealous.

He was an extremely knowledgeable fellow on a great many subjects, including but not limited to military history (including extensive Naval history), ancient history, the Victorian era, classic, Golden Age era Science Fiction, and Fantasy novels, and so much more.

His knowledge of gaming miniatures was quite uncanny. He could identify who made a particular figure, when, and in many cases who the sculptor was. If you said, "I need a mini for this game I'm in, but...I'm playing a dinosaur riding cowboy with a laser gun. How am I ever going to find something to represent that?" Allen would most assuredly reply, "I believe Ral Partha made that in 1980-whathaveyou...", and likely go on to find one in his massive collection.

He himself was a fantastic minis painter, and custom built all kinds of vehicles, terrain, and various sorts of accessories. You can see some of his work in this area on his websites, RavenFeast's Mead Hall, and Rivets & Steam. Although perhaps not as often in recent years, he was a regular attendee of numerous gaming conventions, especially Winter War, and Historicon. 

He was an incredibly funny individual. Smart, sarcastic, dry of wit, and clever with puns, Allen was great at delivering comedic lines, or serving as the straight man (usually for me). He was an integral part of my Galaxy Quest, and Ghostbusters games. My long history of running humorous RPGs probably wouldn't have been possible without him.







Allen and Rebecca, the latter in her usual state
of being virtually paralyzed with laughter.



He and I agreed on a lot of things, and shared very similar views of how games can work. I know this sounds selfish, but with Allen gone I feel like there is one less person in the world who really understands what I am trying to do at the gaming table.

We didn't agree on everything, though Allen was rarely if ever the argumentative sort. He was the last of truly great 'discussers'. He would listen to your ideas and opinions, calmly site ones he agreed, or disagreed with, and give you his own in a measured, reasonable fashion.

He liked war games, miniatures games, and fantasy. We both loved classic Star Trek, but he was not a fan of Star Wars, or Superheroes. We still got along (heheh), and I played the best minis game ever with him as GM/Referee. I convinced him to play both a Supers one-shot, and a short campaign of Star Wars. We always trusted in the ideas of the other.

One subject we both enjoyed immensely was giant robots. It was he who introduced me to some of the Mecha Anime I came to love, including Aura Battler Dunbine, Panzer World Galient, and Combat Mecha Xabungle (the latter two being Allen's absolute favorites). Mekton was a one of his most beloved RPGs. 

The game we played together the most was probably Star Trek (Last Unicorn Games' Icon System). I can easily recall his characters for three separate campaigns. His favored approach was to take an obscure alien in the background of an episode, or film and flesh out their species enough that he could play them with considerable depth. Over time, he would expand on his initial ideas, adding to the milieu as a whole and not just his own PC. Other games I got to run for him include Faery's Tale Deluxe, my homebrew Galaxy Quest game, Ghostbusters / InSpectres, Mekton, Wares Blade, and many more. 

His best, and most memorable characters [in my opinion] were:

Bloodstone Deepforge, Dwarf Craftsman, and Artificer (Wares Blade, Hobby Japan Games)

Dr. Ezeriha Herbert Croftman, Ghostbusters NJ franchise, Hoboken, NJ (Ghostbusters / InSpectres, West End Games, Memento Mori) See this as well.

First Prefect, Alien Super Soldier from Beyond our Galaxy (Deeds Not Words)

Lt. Commander Green Shine Wandering Wave Miragh. Xelatian First Officer, and Chief Science Officer of the USS Thunder Bay (Star Trek, LUG)

Lt. He-Who-Glistens-In-The-Autumn-Twilight-Beneath-The-Third-and-Seventh-Moons. Insectoid Token Alien, and Chief Science Officer of the NSEA Galient. (Galaxy Quest, Barking Alien Productions).

Owen Blackfjord, Medieval Warrior, Keeper of the 'Unseen Sword' (Not sure - Possibly Ars Magica, Atlas Games).

These are but a handful of examples of his varied, and diverse cast of characters, across a plethora of genres, and systems. Others I recall include his his Edoan First Officer in a Classic Star Trek campaign (FASA), a Watchmaker/Tinker Brownie in Faery's Tale Deluxe, and of course the superheroic First Prefect, from our single Superhero outing.
 
Any tribute to Allen would be incomplete without a reference to his Panzer Dreams campaign. 






Panzer Dreams was Allen's magnum opus, his masterpiece. It was a dark, romantic, action packed fantasy tale set in a world of his own creation that resembled 15th century Europe with giant robots. 

Although I only made a guest appearance in a single session, I am well aware of the impact this campaign had on the players who participated in it. They still talk about it to this day, fondly and often, and as I've noted in the past there is no greater evidence of a successful campaign then that.

People were moved. They were touched. Like the man himself, it left a lasting impression that made you think.

I usually include something written by the person themselves when I do these Player Profiles, and this case is no different. 

Here is the last thing he wrote, read aloud by his sister at his funeral...


"The painting bench has been cleared for the last time; toy soldiers, ships and mecha packed away, never looked upon again by me. Tiny, little dreams that, perhaps, someone else will one day finish. May whoever they are find a bit of the happiness that I did in that old chair, under those lamps, brush in hand. Mayhap, even be lucky as I have been: to have made it around the table, rolled dice amongst friends, old and new, and laughed."



This is not the first time the name Allen Halden has graced this blog, and it will not be the last.

This post is a tribute, but no more than a raindrop in a bucket, or a grain of sand on a beach in its capacity to convey what my friend meant to me.

It is my hope that in reading this you will feel you knew him a little as well. Please don't feel sorry for my loss, or sad at his passing. At least not so much that you miss the greater message.

Be kind. Be inclusive. Remember. Learn. Teach. Use your head. Invest emotion. Try new things. Love old things beyond their apparent usefulness. Create. Make changes. Enjoy what others have made. Add to it. 

Be a little more like Allen than you were yesterday.

That's what I hope to do.







AD
Barking Alien


Today, April 7th, 2017 would have been Allen Halden's Birthday.

Happy Birthday old friend.












Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Alternative Timeline - Part II

Continuing my rather academic trip down memory lane, I bring you all to the end of 1987, and the start of 1988, my first year of college at Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. One of my classmates is the brother of an employee of West End Games, makers of the first official Star Wars RPG, which remains one of my all time favorite games (mechanically it is probably my favorite). I find myself running a lot of Star Wars.

It is also around this time that my friend Jason M. (or 'Big Jay' as I used to call him) reintroduced me to the Traveller game and universe via MegaTraveller. Around the same time, he and I discovered Japanese Tabletop RPGs existed and the next generation of my gaming style took hold.


Take Two: The Next 10 Years


1988-1989:

I am GMing around 95% of the time I am gaming, maybe morer. I occasionally get into one-shots or very short campaigns, but they are few and far between.

Although I am working part-time while going to college, I still get the chance to game fairly often. I have a game running at school and another every other weekend.

My games are primarily Star Wars, Star Trek (FASA), Mekton II, Teenagers from Outer Space, Champions (4th Edition), and the occasional game or short campaign of Paranoia.

I still get the opportunity to run and play other systems and settings, but these are almost always one shots. 

Between 1987 and 1989, my good friends Nelson and Anastasia introduce me to friends of theirs living in New Jersey and meeting at the house of two fellow Anime/Comic/Gaming geeks. Many fans of many subjects saw this house as a Mecca of all the things we enjoyed and it would eventually be a place I visited many times to run and play in games. 

As mentioned above, my buddy Big Jay sold me on trying Traveller again and I loved it. Soon after the introductory session he ran, MegaTraveller was released and I purchased it. Not long after that I ran my first Traveller/MegaTraveller campaign. 

Big Jay and I also began investigating the Japanese pencil and paper RPG market and started buying magazines that talked about them (though we couldn't really read Japanese). One of the first RPGs I am able to learn anything about is Wares Blade. 

After a year at Pratt Institute I transferred to The School of Visual Arts. There I reconnected with some old gaming buddies and made some new ones. One of the first campaigns I ran there was a Shadowrun game.

1990-1991:


While I tried many games during this period, none really stuck. My various groups and I kept returning to our favorites. At the same time, my homebrew one-shots and short campaigns became more experimental. I tried to do games based on unusual topics and settings. I ran a game in which the time frame went backwards. I ran a musical RPG.

The most significant game to come out for me during this time was Vampire: The Masquerade, the first introduction to the World of Darkness. Next would be Cyberpunk 2020 by R. Talsorian Games. While the latter was played a lot more often, the subject and nature of the World of Darkness intrigued me. It was different from what I was used to and 'exotic' in a fashion.

I was also able to play a few Japanese RPGs at Gen Con. Members of the staff of Fujimi Shobo - Japan's Dragon Magazine - are present at the convention and showcase Sword World (The Record of the Lodoss War RPG), The Gundam Sentinel RPG, and a few others.

I definitely ran some epic campaigns during this time including a somewhat short but awesome Shadowrun (FASA) game and a Superhero game set in the Victorian Era using a modified Space: 1889 (GDW). 

1992-1996:

New games come and go, but my ability to try new ones is becoming more limited. A lack of funds, people wanting to stick with ones they like, and availability of those with smaller distribution hinder my hobby within the hobby [of trying out new games just to try out new games].

The tried and true preferences continue to see play. Star Wars, Star Trek, Mekton, TFOS, Cyberpunk, Ars Magica, World of Darkness (combining Vampire, Werewolf, Mage, and several other titles), Champions, and Traveller top the list. 

At this point I haven't played D&D in a long time. A friend had run one short campaign some time between 89' and 93' (I think) but I hadn't run it myself in many years. I all but completely missed out on AD&D 2nd Edition. 

At this point my games have several things in common.

Story and Characters (especially PCs) are paramount.

The style and approach of my games are based on the subject matter. 
Star Trek is largely episodic. Superhero games are short arcs like the comics of the era. Etc.
If not based on a pop culture IP, like Ars Magica, Traveller, or the like, the games are fully open world, sandbox, or 'Storybox'. 

I play some crunchy games to be sure, but my personal preference remains simpler, less rule-heavy RPGs. What rules exist should support the genre, setting, or 'feel' of the game's subject matter.

More to come,

AD
Barking Alien







Wednesday, March 14, 2018

The Last Rebel

Star Wars: Rebels has ended, but The Force lives on.






The final episodes of the Disney XD CGI animated series Star Wars: Rebels aired on March 5th of 2018, ending four excellent seasons of a show I loved. I am sorry to see it go, but even sorrier if they don't continue with the version of Star Wars they left behind.

For you see, the series was good - really good - and the finale great, but the epilogue was what Star Wars is all about. The series embraced what we love about Star Wars and how you can extend its universe into the future.

Everything the new Star Wars Trilogy has failed to do properly, Star Wars: Rebels did with flying colors, and when it was all over I was not only satisfied, I wanted more. 



MAY THE SPOILERS BE WITH YOU!


The series began with a small group of rebellious individuals having teamed up together in a group so ragtag that they could only have been a party of Player Characters in someone's Star Wars D6 campaign. I swear that is the only explanation that makes any sense for why this group was built the way it was. 

In all honesty, I wasn't a huge fan of the show initially. The program came on the heals of the abrupt cancellation of the amazing The Clone Wars animated series which bothered a lot of fans, myself included. In the beginning, the CGI for Rebels didn't seem up to par considering what Clone Wars had been showing us .In addition, Rebels was aimed at kids and the characters seemed to lack depth in comparison to those that appeared in the preceding show. Lastly, the story seemed focused on a thieving-street-urchin-with-a-good-heart named Ezra Bridger who started out more than 
a little annoying.

Around episode 5 or 6, something changed. The stories got deeper, the characters more numerous (thanks to some cool Imperial villains), and the art and rendering came into its own.

Throughout the next four seasons the crazy collection of heroes we were introduced to proceeded to do the impossible; they stood up to the tyranny of the Galactic Empire while simultaneously being characters we loved. The show also introduced elements to the canon as far reaching as a third class of Force-Wielder, the original of the B-Wing Fighter (the episode, 'Wings of the Master' is a run through of the WEG D6 Adventure Module 'Strike Force Shantipole'- no foolin'!), and - hold on to your Astromechs - time travel!

Even more impressive is the fact that they grew into characters I liked and cared about. I routed for the heroes and was worried for their safety. The villains enraged me with their evil but I loved seeing what they would do next and how they'd get theirs in the end.

The final result was absolutely epic. I thought it was a near perfect ending to the series. Even more amazing was the epilogue...






Sabine Wren
All Grown Up


The epilogue of the series - told in the finale's last couple of minutes - is so good, so interesting, it almost overshadows the finale itself. Not only does the epilogue answer the question of where these characters were during the original trilogy, it also begins to lead us towards a new series.

Or it should. Let me rephrase that...it has to.





Ahsoka Tano
Now...Ahsoka The White?


The end of the epilogue sets up a story I really, really want to see. I will be sorely disappointed if that tale doesn't follow this one. It was sooo cool it put me in the mood to run Star Wars as much as The Last Jedi took that feeling away.

In conclusion, if you haven't seen this series and you love Star Wars you need to see this series. Seriously. If what you like about Star Wars is what Star Wars is all about, you will like this show.

Star Wars: Rebels proves that there are a lot more stories to tell in the Star Wars universe and that there are those who can tell them well. 







May The Force Be With You...Always.

AD
Barking Alien


A powerful mind and spirit has returned to The Force...

Stephen Hawking, world renowned Theoretical Physicist, Cosmologist, and Author has passed away at the age of 76. In addition to his contributions to the fields of quantum mechanics and gravitational singularity theorems within the general theory of relativity, Hawking became something of a symbol and role model for the disabled and those suffering from Lou Gehrig's Disease. 

As someone interested in physics and quantum mechanics, I have been an avid follower of Hawking work for years. The world will sorely miss this man's intellectual brilliance and personal determination. 















Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Drawn Together

There has been a hole in my heart these past two months effecting everything I do, every waking moment. While the wound left behind by the passing of Delilah, the first dog I've ever had that was wholly mine [and not a family pet] may never fully heal, the emptiness has been greatly eased. I have adopted another dog and I couldn't be happier.

Say hello to Sketch!





Sketch is a 6 month old, Male, Hound/Terrier mix that is perhaps the most affectionate dog I have ever met. 

Originally from Mississippi and adopted from New York's ASPCA, this scrappy little guy is incredibly smart and playful, but if given the chance he would much rather just sit in my lap and cuddle. He already has decent name recognition, fetches, sits, and we are working on a touch command. 

As of now, his favorite toys are two balls: a plastic, squeaking one and the other a simple tennis ball. He seems to like all his toys though. He sleeps in his dog bed, but would rather sleep on my bed or the couch. 





I love him. He is adorable, sweet, and the exactly what I'd hoped for. It sounds corny I know but I really feel like we rescued each other with this adoption. 

Thanks for sharing this moment with me. It's a happy one.

Peace and Love,

AD
Barking Alien







Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Alternative Timeline - Part I

Old Dragoon's Blog has inspired me. 

I had wanted to do a Timeline of my years in the RPG Gaming Hobby last August when I celebrated my 40th year. I forgot to get around to it as that month was pretty thick with RPGaDay Challenge posts.

As accurately as I can, I am going to map out my RPG Timeline. My plan is to give my readership* some insight into why I game the way I do. With any luck, I will realize something about myself through this endeavor. Ain't self reflection grand?

OK, here goes...

Wait! Preface:

We begin in 1977, Brooklyn, New York.
I am 8 years old. My father is a Police Officer and my mother a Homemaker/House-Wife. 
We are Lower-Middle Class, as are most of my friends and their families. 

The neighborhood is ethnically diverse. Originally the area was largely Irish, Italian, and Polish immigrants, but by 1977 encompassed a much greater range. 

My maternal grandfather is a Movie Theater Manager. He does well and is probably Middle Class. I see a lot of movies for free and sometimes help out around his theaters as an usher.

My uncle (married to my mother's sister) works for the distribution company that handles Time Magazine, Mad Magazine, and DC Comics. I get free DC comic books on occasion

My father has a female cousin who is about 16 at the time. We only see her and the rest of her family on Jewish Holidays and occasionally during the early or late Summer. She reads DC Comics along with Archie and Harvey Comics titles (Hot Stuff, Wendy The Witch, Casper). My dad's cousin introduces me to the Legion of Superheroes, the Teen Titans, and other such series

My friends and are are deeply into comic books. 

I watch a lot of TV. Mostly cartoons of course, but also reruns of Lost in Space, the Twilight Zone, and other Science Fiction shows. I also watch a lot of cowboy and police detective programs. I watch Star Trek reruns Saturday night's with my father on the only evening he is home from work at a time when I am awake. I love Star Trek. My friends and I play Star Trek the way some kids play Cops and Robbers.

My reading level is several grades higher than my actual grade. I read a lot of books, mostly Science, Science Fiction, and Folklore and Mythology.

I am absolutely obsessed with Outer Space. I have a telescope my father got from a Police auction. I watch any news or TV programs about astronauts, space, or anything related. This obsession includes UFOs and Aliens. I will watch any show or read any book about those subjects. 

I am also obsessed with Star Wars. The film came out a few months earlier and I watched it five times on opening day. 

I attend Summer Camp at the YM/YWHA for the first time. 


It Begins: The First 10 Years


August 25th, 1977: I play Dungeons and Dragons, Holmes Basic I believe, with my friends Paul and Tom. Paul is 8 like myself and Tom is only 7. Tom's older brother taught him how to play. Story relayed here and here

The campaign lasts a dozen adventures or so. My character is killed at Level 3 when he dives in front of his comrades to save their lives lest they be fried by dragon breath. 

Summer 1978:

I have not played an RPG in about half a year or more.

In May or June, on the first day of Summer Camp, a friend shows a group of us the D&D Basic game. I am the only one with any past experience in that group and are therefore given the job of Dungeonmaster. I DM for a small group that grows larger as the Summer goes on. 

Winter 1978:

I ran and played a lot of D&D during the school year.

I may have played my first other game at this time but I believe it wasn't until...

1979:

By now I had regular games going on during the School/Winter months and the Camp/Summer months. 

At some point I played Boot Hill (I believe), Traveller, and Advanced Dungeons & Dragons. 

1980-1981:

At this points I Gamemaster twice as often as I am a player.

I receive my own copy of Basic D&D for my birthday or perhaps Chanukah from my 'aunt' (family friend who knew my Mom since Junior High School). Technically, since my birthday is February and Chanukah moves based on the Jewish calendar, this may actually have occurred in 1981.

By this point I had played and run Gamma World and Top Secret. 

I am able to get Dragon Magazine at one of two 'local' stores that sell RPG materials. The stores are actually closer to my grandparents than to my home and I only go there with them. 

I play in a few games of Advanced D&D in 1981 that begin to turn me off to the game and its fans a bit. I begin to see flaws in the game I never noticed before in terms of what it's about, how it works, and why people play it. Nonetheless it is still my main game of choice for the time being. 

1982:

I spend my gaming time as a GM vs. being a Player 75% to 25%.

A major turning point in my gaming 'career': 

I am now 13-14 (again birthday in February and much of my gaming based around whether I am in School or at Camp) and I go into Manhattan/New York City on the subway with my friends to discover the pop-culture megastore 'Forbidden Planet'. A bit later, traveling completely by myself, I find the Complete Strategist, a store devoted solely to gaming, almost by accident. 

I purchase my first two RPGs that I obtain with my own money - Villains and Vigilantes (2nd Edition, Fantasy Games Unlimited) and Star Trek, The Role Playing Game (Basic Game, FASA). I begin GMing and playing both games fairly regularly, cutting my time with D&D rather significantly. 

During the school year I create and run my very first homebrewed game system. Essentially a mix of AD&D 1st Edition and V&V 2nd Edition, the end result is a workable if cumbersome Star Wars game. This begins my tendency to modify, kitbash, or otherwise confidently mess with game mechanics. 

In the Summer of 1982 I begin a campaign of heavily houseruled AD&D that will last about three and a half year of real time. The game is set on my homebrewed world of Aerth and patterned after things I learned running V&V. It isn't really a Medieval Fantasy game but rather a Superhero game disguised as one. 

I would play and run more systems in 1982 as my network of gaming friends increased and each owned different games. It became a thing with us to try a new game whenever one game out and we had the funds. 

I get my first job working after school on Wednesdays at a comic book store in Brooklyn not far from my house. I mostly use my earnings to buy RPG books and comics. The rest covers food and snacks most likely. 

Finally, I first discover Japanese Anime and Manga around this time, though I had unknowingly watched Japanese cartoons in English and purchased Gundam models without knowing what they were. A friend of mine, originally from Myanmar (then called Burma), had watched Starblazers, Battle of the Planets, and Tranzor Z in Chinese and Japanese back home. He revealed the true natures and stories of Space Battleship Yamato, Science Ninja Team Gatchaman, and Mazinger Z. Thank you Aldrin.

1983-1984:

At this point I am rarely playing, GMing almost exclusively.

I continue to try out numerous RPGs, thanks in part to older friends at camp and other gamers I meet at my 'friendly local game store', The Compleat Strategist. My after school job and errands give my the funds to purchase games on occasion. 

The games I focus on at this time include Star Trek (FASA), Star Frontiers (TSR), Space Opera (FGU), and Villains & Vigilantes (FGU). I am already realizing my preference for Science Fiction and Superheroes over Fantasy, which is something I'd always known but never stated outright. By 1984 I was telling potential players, "I don't really like D&D."

The games that would come out at this time and really influence my approach to RPGs were Paranoia (WEG), Toon (Steve Jackson Games), and Mekton (1st Edition, R. Talsorian Games). I embraced the lighter, more flexible rules, the concept that the rules really were just guidelines, and comedy was a viable way of approaching RPGs. 

In addition to the cultural and racial diversity my groups have always had, I start having female players join in at this time. I wouldn't have a regular member until the end of 84' or the beginning of 85', but a few female players pop in and out of my campaigns and attend one-shots.

Aldrin introduces me to an older friend of his who is attends the High School of Art and Design in Manhattan. He, Nelson, further introduces me to the world of Anime and Manga, including taking Aldrin and I to a meet with a group that gets together once a month to watch Anime from Japan in Japanese. Recorded off Japanese television these shows and movies are neither dubbed nor subtitled. My mind is blown. 

1985:

I finish my long running AD&D homebrew game after three and a half years. It is a bittersweet finale but a solid ending and epilogue to the campaign.

It is the final year in which I will attend Summer Camp and I will not see the majority of my friends from this time in my life ever again. We went to different schools, lived in different parts of Brooklyn, and I was about to attend High School in Manhattan. 

Ah yes, I get into the High School of Art and Design. I meet many more gamers and of course all of them are also artists. My campaign folders and notebooks quickly become the envy of all gamers who see them as they are filled with character illustrations, concept art, and vehicle designs.

I discover the DC Heroes RPG by Mayfair Games in addition to many more, but it is this one that sticks with my group for a while as we're big DC fans and the point buy character creation is right up our alley.  

My games of choice are now primarily DC Heroes, Star Trek, and Mekton.

1986-1988:

My high school gaming was dominated Mekton, Palladium's R-Word RPG used to play Macross (Palladium Books), Star Trek (FASA), Teenagers from Outer Space (1st Edition, R.Talsorian Games), Toon, and Ghostbusters (WEG).

It is at this time that I first game the reputation as 'The King of Licensed RPGs' for running popular games of DC Comics Superheroes, Ghostbusters, the Micronauts, Mobile Suit Gundam/Zeta-Gundam, Star Trek, Star Wars, and other IP related games. 

I homebrew even more systems and run a long game of Star Wars using a mix of Mekton, TFOS, and other bits from here and there. 

While I am hardly ever playing RPGs as a player during this time, I do become involved in the greatest Superhero RPG campaign of all time, my friend William's Age of Champions game. The campaign, which began in 1981 and ended around 1992 encompasses more than a dozen players, even more PCs (as people have alternates), Player Character Villains as well as Heroes, and is played practically every day in some form or another. For my part I play a few hours here and there on the weekdays and rare weekends. I will be a participant from 1986 to 1989.

I learn so much about gaming from Will. Not only am I exposed to Champions, a game I was previously turned off of by its apparent complexity, but Will's philosophies help me develop a number of my own. 

My style changes at this time. While I was always an open world, live-in-the-setting type GM, I now see the worlds and their inhabitants as living, breathing entities will their own rules, physics, thoughts, and how actions have ramifications both seen and unseen. 

I no longer plan adventures in the 'traditional' way. I create materials and see which ones the PCs interact with and what happens because of that. This all prepares me, though I know it not, for the next game to influence my future in the hobby...

1987:

I am asked to GM at an RPGA (Role Playing Game Associated) Convention/Event in Manhattan called CrusadeCon. I attend and run a pre-prepared AD&D Adventure. Unfortunately, a terrible snow storm hits NYC that day and nearly 60% of the scheduled attendees do not show up to the convention. On the other hand, nearly every GM scheduled to show does so.

In order to help with the frustration of the situation, I run an impromptu game of my homebrewed Star Wars RPG for several the GMs without a session to run. The short game is incredibly well received.

At my lunch break I see one of the other GMs running a Star Wars game with two of his friends and fellow Gamemasters. The game he is running looks official and not fan made like mine. When I ask him about it he says that a real, official Star Wars RPG has just been released by West End Games. I go to lunch unable to think of much else. 

At the end of the convention there is an award ceremony, and I tie with another fellow for best GM (as voted on by the attendees). I receive a gift certificate to the Compleat Strategist. Just before the ceremony ends, the MC announces a last, special award, given to a GM who helped make the event successful by entertaining those Gamemasters left without anything to do because of the blizzard. It is me. I receive a second gift certificate and a near standing ovation from the assembled participants. 

The following Monday I go to the Compleat Strategist and apply both gift certificates to the purchase of the West End Games Star Wars RPG. I still have those copies of the 1st Edition Rulebook and Sourcebook to this day. After reading through them, running Star Wars games became my favorite thing. I absolutely fell in love with the system, the expanded information and ideas inside the books, and WEG's attitude towards gaming.

I now knew what kind of Gamemaster I was, the kind of games I liked, and the approach I would take going forward. 

Genre Tropes, Cool Ideas, Awesome Visuals supersede Rules.
Rules and Mechanics should fade into the background as much as possible.
There is a World/Universe. It has it's own way of doing things. Figure out what that is.
There are Adventures to be found but I have not written an Adventure. I will not. 
Interact with the Universe and it will interact with you. 
Be bold, be humorous, be smart. Do not be boring. Boring will kill your character.
Incredibly Fast is not nearly fast enough.
Think quickly. If you can't, find a way to buy yourself some time. 


To Be Continued...


AD
Barking Alien


*I love it when you guys get together like this.Everybody brings something: chips, dip, drinks, and whatever. It's nice that you can all fit in that one small apartment. 








Thursday, March 1, 2018

Thorough Thursdays - Hobby Japan's RPG MAGAZINE

Prior to this post, I have never specifically tagged a post or dedicated an entry to RPG Magazine. I have shown covers from issues that I own and may have referenced the publication on rare occasion. 

That's just wrong.






RPG Magazine was a monthly periodical published in Japan by Hobby Japan Co. LTD., from May of 1990 to August of 1999. While the Hobby Japan company is best known for its self titled modeling hobby magazine which was first published in 1969, they have expanded into many other hobby fields including the production of manga, prose paperbacks, artbooks, and tabletop RPGs and support publications. 

The magazine was originally 'saddle stitched', with a flat, stapled, spine but changed to a thicker, sturdier, 'flat stitch' format in later years (more like the spine of most softcover RPG books today).

During the 'saddle stitch' era, the magazine was heavily focused on useful RPG articles including adventure scenarios, articles on Medieval Japan culture, sample NPCs for various games, and other helpful bits. The magazine covered many games, though it focused heavily on American RPGs like Call of Cthulhu, MegaTraveller, Rolemaster, and Rune Quest, as well as Japanese tabletop role playing games like Metal Head, Satasupe ReMix, Seventh Fortress, and Wares Blade.

When RPG Magazine changed to a flat spine format, it mainly did so in order to add additional pages of Replay Manga and short Manga serials. Replay Manga is an awesome and uniquely Japanese invention. It is essentially a comic book story showing people playing a particular game. In addition to showcasing cool elements of the game's setting, it teaches you the rules as you read it. It is often accredited with clearing up confusion over rule misinterpretations by both showing and telling how a given mechanic works. 

While this change left less room for detailed, in-depth gaming articles it did have one feature I loved. Often it would give you a new mini-game or game expansion [to an existing RPG] explained as an illustrated prose novel, with a side order of rules (similar to how WotC's Dungeon Magazine did in their Polyhedron issues). 

My two favorites were a cool expanded Mobile Suit Gundam story that filed in the gap between the original series 'One Year War' tech and the later 'Stardust Memory' tech and Mobile Racer Championship, a giant robot competitive racing sport game set in the Cyberpunk milieu of the Metal Head RPG. 






RPG Magazine was eventually discontinued in 1999 and replaced by other titles as the gaming hobby and industry changed in Japan and the United States. While RPGs remained a small but popular past time, card games such as Magic: The Gathering took precedence and brought in more money. GAME JAPAN was the magazine to take over RPG Magazine's legacy, though it was strongly focused on collectible card games, computer games, and board games with just a smattering of RPG material mostly aimed as Dungeons & Dragons. I believe it may still be in print.

Traditional RPGs became even more of a 'niche' hobby, yet Japanese fans of it were fiercely loyal and remain so. This resulted in a resurgence in popularity over time, with more independent and small press games filling in the gap left by fewer big companies like Hobby Japan supporting the interest. 

Nowadays the main tabletop gaming magazine is Role & Roll, though there are a few others. I'll talk about Role & Roll in future post. 

I personally first discovered RPG Magazine in 1991 at the age of 22. I had a couple of friends who could read Japanese and we poured over issues after issue trying to mine even the smallest nuggets of information out of them. 

Interestingly, it was fairly easy to use the MegaTraveller, Call of Cthulhu, and Rune Quest material, as the formats used were nearly identical to those in the American products and the numbers were often written in English. The UWP and UPP Codes used in Traveller to describe planets and characters respectively were identical in both the American and Japanese games. 

Even if I could only understand [with help] 25% of any given issue, I still look them over again and again. The art was so cool and so different from what gaming products looked like in the USA. The ideas that formed the basis of the games made by the Japanese for the Japanese were unusual and incredibly intriguing to me back then.

Though only a handful of issues have survived the intervening 25+ years, I still go back and look at them all the time. Each time I do I am inspired by the visuals and promise of genres that are a tad off the beaten path here in the states. 

Maybe soon I will find a way to reawaken the power within their pages

Until then,

AD
Barking Alien