Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Disenchantment

I'd like to discuss a character flaw of mine. It's one I've found quite beneficial over the years. 






I am often inspired to run games not because I have been exposed to some great example of the subject or genre, but a recent encounter with it that was thoroughly awful.

The Star Wars Prequels and The Last Jedi made me want to run Star Wars sooo badly. After seeing the first J. J. Abrams Star Trek film (and I use the term loosely) and Discovery (Blech!) I just knew I had to run 'Trek. 

Unfortunately, the same thing happens when I am exposed to a bad game. If someone runs a poor Sentai game, I become obsessed with running a Sentai game of my own. (No reason I picked that particular genre. Ahem. None at all). 

I can't help it. Seeing something done poorly that I feel I could do better just plants a seed in me that is warmed by the light of my burning hatred for it, watered by my tears of sorrow over what could have been, and nurtured to fruition by my undying disdain for poorly executed ideas. 

Wow. OK. Deep breaths. Sounding a little 'Mirror Adam' over here. 

The thing is...in the case of something like a bad Star Wars movie or a lame actual play podcast, no big whoop. I get inspired, I run a good session with my friends, I get it out of my system...no harm, no foul. No one gets hurt and my friends and I have a great time. 

On the other hand, if my buddy just ran a right rank game of Mekton and now I want to run Mekton, it's hard to avoid looking like a turd-waffle who's trying to outdo him.

The truth of the matter is...and even I know this sounds like bantha-poodoo...I am not trying to upstage the other GM. I'm not. I am trying to show the subject some love where I feel like it was recently shown a disservice.

At the very least I want to try to take a different approach, to find out if it was the other GM, the game (subject or system), or if maybe I can't do any better than they did.

Yet I am aware I am potentially making someone else feel bad by doing this and it kills me. To that end, to that truth, I often don't run my idea with the same group that ran and played the session I didn't like. I am not looking to show anyone up. Again, that is absolutely not the point. I just get frustrated when I think something that could easily be cool just isn't. 

Don't think less of me for...eh...go ahead and think what you want. I know it's a donkey's rear-end thing to do but not only do I try to make sure it doesn't hurt anyone's feelings, I can't help myself. I gotta be me. 






That brings me to Medieval Fantasy...Nothing makes me want to run Medieval Fantasy like bad Medieval Fantasy. Actually, the only thing that makes me want to run Medieval Fantasy is bad Medieval Fantasy.

I definitely don't get jazzed by good Medieval Fantasy. As I have noted many times I am not a big fan of it. Not in the way it's usually presented anyway. I rarely want to run Dungeons and Dragons and it's nieces, nephews, third-cousins, and endless derivatives. My girlfriend has gotten me to finally watch Games of Thrones, which is very well done by the way, yet it doesn't make me want to DM a game of D&D at all.

But then...

I recently watched both Disenchantment and The Dragon Prince, two new animated series released on Netflix. 

I liked Disenchantment, though I was surprised it wasn't as funny as The Simpsons or Futurama considering its DNA. I also thought that the twist (no spoilers) was cool but wondered if those who follow Fantasy literature saw it coming more easily then I. It seemed at one clever and nothing ground-breaking. 

And speaking of nothing ground-breaking...

The Dragon Prince was tepidly excellent. Overwhelmingly OK. It sets the bar of mediocre quite high. I enjoyed it for the most part but also felt that it was a bunch of empty calories. It's own pedigree - Avatar, The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra - well, it isn't those. 

I also ended up watching and listening to some D&D actual play podcasts, some great animated youtube shows on gaming ( do yourself a favor and check out The Animated Spellbook. Thank me later), and finally, listened to a friend complain about his recent attempt to run D&D 5E. 

This mix of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the thoroughly meh, has me...no...must resist...can't...can't hold it in...Grrr! 

Crap. I want to run Fantasy. I want this non-Fantasy fan to show'em how it's done. 

It's my own fault. I know it. I did it to myself. 

AD
Barking Alien







Saturday, September 15, 2018

Out of This World

Great Geks of the Galaxy! It's already the 15th of September!

So much for being inspired to blog more.

No, that's not right, I am inspired to blog. I've just let the time get away from me. 

While Indie Adam considers what kind of deep meaning, hippie-trippy RPG campaign will work best in the coming year, Mainstream Adam* is thinking about Space Opera Science Fiction once more.

I've been playing a lot of No Man's Sky...






I've talked about it before but for those of you who may not be familiar with it, No Man's Sky is a Space Opera Science Fiction, Action-Adventure computer and video game created by the independent studio Hello Games.

In the game you are an explorer traveling through a procedurally generated open universe of literally hundreds of millions of planets. The game can be played by different people in different ways by choosing to focus on one or more of the games key themes:

Combat

You can dedicate your time to battling space pirates, kill monstrous creatures, or destroy the robotic sentinels that appear on worlds throughout No Man's Sky's galaxies (yes, plural). Mine, craft, buy, sell, and trade to upgrade your personal and shipboard weapons, defenses, speed, etc. 

Of the four intelligent alien species in the game, the Vy'Keen are the warrior culture who most value fighting as a means of getting what they want.

Exploration

You can earn Units and Nanite Clusters (two of the game universe's three currencies) by discovering new star systems, new worlds, scanning the creatures and plants that live on them as well as other elements. In addition, there are secrets to the various species and the nature of the Sentinels and the mysterious Atlas that can only be found by looking around and interacting with the artifacts and ruins you find scattered across the cosmos.

The Korvax, an intelligent species of cybernetic, or perhaps robotic lifeforms are the pioneers of Science and Discover in the game.

Trade

Nothing can be accomplished without money and resources. The game enables you to mine for minerals, plant material, and even chemicals and gases. These are used to keep you alive, powering your exosuit, multi-tool, and starship. They can also be used to build devices, bases, and vehicles to aid in the other aforementioned aspects of the game. 

The diminutive Gek, a reptilian alien species and my favorite of the four starfaring sentients are all about trade. 

Survival

The universe of No Man's Sky is dangerous. Toxic, freezing, and scorching atmospheres, deadly poison spores, quick striking pirate starfighters, and other hazards lurk across the stars. No matter how else you play you must also survive to Fight, Explore, and Trade another day.

The fourth species, the Travellers, are the ultimate survivors, or at least their memories and works will live on for eons...

No Man's Sky Next (see below) adds a fifth intelligent lifeform, The Anomaly, who appear for all intents and purposes to be Humans, but that has not been officially confirmed. Little information about them is available at this time. 





My Science Frigate, the GDV-101s Inquiring Mind
coming through an asteroid field and into orbit around
Yuki-Onna, in the Ame-No-Koyane Antares System


The game has had a few updates since its original release two years ago, with the latest a major content release known as No Man's Sky Next. I played the game when it first came out and again somewhere around the second update. Now, with Next, I have returned once again and I am loving it like never before. 

I am also getting very inspired. I want to get back to Science Fiction.

Not just any type of Science Fiction but Space Opera style SF similar to that of No Man's Sky. The adventures of brave but lonely space explorers roaming the cosmos in search of wealth, glory, and knowledge. The next planet you land on may hold a score big enough to retire on or the answer to questions about the very nature of the universe.

Now I just need a game that can handle that. Easy peasy, right?

Certainly I could do it with any number of games, with Traveller and Star Frontiers coming to mind immediately. When playing No Man's Sky I often find myself thinking about my old games of Star Frontiers. The look of things, the types of missions you take and 'quests' you get all feel very Star Frontiers to me. If Star Frontiers had better sentient species it would be No Man's Sky. 

It just so happens however that there is a game on Kickstarter right now (only a few days left to go!) called Free Spacer that seems right on the money (unless of course your advanced society no longer uses it).

What makes Free Spacer so well suited for a No Man's Sky type setting?

A big part of the No Man's Sky is the resource management and crafting aspects that work so well in computer and video games but rarely show up in American tabletop RPGs.

Free Spacer makes this a key part of the game play. There is a very interesting (and more than slightly complex) relationship between the in-game management of the PC crew, their starship, the items, materials, and information they buy, sell, and exchange, and the rule mechanics for bonuses to skills and various actions. 

I love a little resource management in my Science Fiction. It is something I found overwhelming in Traveller if you play it by the book but of course I never did that. Instead I simplified things and created a smoother, quicker, and much easier way of handling funds, resources, and the like that my players really get a kick out of. 

Other aspects of Free Spacer that sound intriguing include the options for 'world-building' the universe, which involves player and the Gamemaster collaboration, the way you can reward good Role Playing to power-up your character and the ship, and a host of other nifty ideas.

Here's a First Look at Free Spacer by Adam Koebel, co-designer of Dungeon World. Check it out but be ready to sit through some very youtube-content-poster moments. Still and all, quite informative and definitely made me want to see more of Free Spacer.






I am a little under the weather, so I am going to call it a day here on Space Station Samulayo Sigma. The Kickstarter is linked further up in the post.






Take care and safe travels,

AD
Barking Alien







Tuesday, September 4, 2018

The Good Place

Hello everyone and welcome to September!




I'm in a Good Place.*
Heh.


I hope you all had a relaxing and enjoyable Labor Day weekend (at least those of you who celebrate it here in the good ol' U.S. of A). 

I myself had a great weekend and did a lot of thinking on a lot of subjects. It was a time to reflect you might say. After completing last month's RPGaDay Challenge, I had to take a good long look at my current gaming 'state of affairs' and figure out the answer to a most perplexing question.


If I am presently running two campaigns and playing in a third that are all going well and a lot of fun, why am I feeling not quite fulfilled gaming-wise?


The short answer of course is that I am never 100% pleased with my gaming endeavors, always striving to do better, to do something more memorable, more amazing than the last game. I'm a perfectionist well aware that nothing and nobody is perfect but that doesn't stop me from holding myself up to a higher standard that I will probably never attain. 

Hmmm. That paragraph had a bit of a bummer vibe to it and that's not what I want to convey here. Rather, I want to communicate that coming to this realization has given me insight into what I need to do come 2019.

While there are a number of games I'd love to run based on subject matter, IPs I like, neat game systems that match those ideas, and so on and so forth, what I really need to do is get back to my 'Art Films'. 

My good friend Dave has said (and I have mentioned it on the blog before) that I run two types of games, 'Art Films' and 'Blockbusters'. 

Most of my campaigns are Blockbusters. They are action/adventure stories with larger than life characters, locations, and situations, easily accessible to the average pop culture fan and gamer. The genres and settings most commonly covered in Blockbuster campaigns are Superheroes, Hard Science and Space Opera Science Fiction such as Traveller Star Trek and Star Wars, and my D&D-But-Not setting.

I have been running Blockbusters for the past few years, almost exclusively, with the exception of a short campaign here and there that would qualify more as an 'Art Film'.

Art Film games are generally more esoteric in concept. They focus on character personalities, goals, and stories about philosophical or conceptual exploration. These are games that make the players think, really think, about the natural of Humanity, the universe, life and death, or whatever idea we're looking to explore. 

Alternatively, an Art Film game can tell a more traditional story but with a different approach. They are often more subtle, and sublime, subdued or surreal. Fantastic elements, be they Magical or Scientific, are often creepier and more mysterious. The PCs do not have supernormal abilities themselves, though they exist in the setting, or if they do they do not understand them and/or can not fully control them. 

These types of campaigns can be run in a wide variety of systems, some of which are designed to be more unusual, some of which can be reconfigured to serve the purpose of Art Film gaming. Examples include Changeling: The Dreaming, Golden Sky Stories, InSpectres, Steal Away Jordan, Tales From The Loop, and my own Unfinished Business (a Ghost Story game I am designing).

One of the things I've noticed is that comedic games are easy to turn into Art Film games. Art Films often require a touch of humor added here and there to alleviate some of the pressure of more serious elements.

I feel that it's time to run an Art Film again. 

I want to do something different. Something I've never run before, or not in a long time, or not quite as I have before. I want to wow people. I want to see real emotion on people's faces. I want to do research, get artwork, make maps, etc. I want...I need...to create something incredible. 

The key to all, the bottom line you see, is that I feel I am in position to develop and run such a campaign. All I need is the right audience. 

Now...what to create...and what to do with it.


AD
Barking Alien


*By the way, the title of this post and the image are from my new favorite television show, the hilarious and absolutely amazing series, 'The Good Place'. If you haven't seen it, do so. I can't explain to you what it's about, as that would give away part of its brilliance. I would love to run a campaign that is like this show.