Tuesday, August 20, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - NOBLE

Nobility is not a thing I equate with most Role-Playing Games or Gamers, at least as it applies to games. 

Allow me to clarify...

The typical 'Heroes' of a Fantasy Role-Playing Game just slew anything and everything in sight before stealing all of the treasure that could find. They then proceed to a nearby village where a beggar, hearing of their exploits and seeing their bulging sacks of coin, asks humbly for pity and a few coppers from the brave adventurers.

He is likely killed.

So is the guy eyeing them as they entered town who just happens to work for the city guard and is not accustomed to wealthy armed strangers entering the gates. This brings in the rest of the guard who are also killed as the 'Heroes' defend themselves from a 'clearly unfair' GM. Before long the town is a burning ruin and the 'Valiant' PC party are off to their next crime. 

I have seen Nobility. True Nobility. Noble Heroes gilded not in shining armor or gold but in self-sacrifice. I have seen PCs put themselves in harms way to save each other and NPCs. I have seen players have their PCs do what is right, not what 'makes the most sense'. 

A few examples: 

Star Trek

The Asst. Chief Engineer of our Star Trek campaign starship had developed an interesting personality and backstory over time, such that he was a favorite NPC of much of the crew. He was of Indian descent, had a wife and a young son, took any opportunity to cook real food for his friends and family (as opposed to synthesized food), and collected old timey watches and clocks as a child. 

In a particularly serious session the Engine Room was flooded with deadly radiation and evacuated, but someone needed to stay behind to shut down the main reactor manually due to computer/system damage. The PC Chief Engineer decided to stay and get everyone else out. Our Asst. Chief insisted he stay. The two argued, valid points on both sides, and it eventually turned into a wrestling match, fist fight as they each struggled to save each other.

Finally, it looked like the PC had won but just as he turned his back on the prone Asst. Chief, the NPC sprang up and saved the PC, the massive blast door trapping our favorite clock-fixing, chef in the radioactive Engine Room. He managed to manually disengage the system just as the PC ship was about to suffer a TPK overload. 

The players were sad for weeks. The Chief Engineer was so guilty he became a surrogate dad to the NPCs family. It was the height of Noble.

Star Wars

My buddy was playing a Smuggler who was one part Han Solo and two parts Wild West gunfighter. Throughout the campaign, though he was helping the Rebellion against the Empire, he never once claimed he wasn't still in it for the money. He had no Princess Leia to love, no Luke to befriend, and his co-pilot/companion was a droid. 

As the final battle of the campaign began, the Smuggler and his droid, now a full on independent being, reunited to lead an attack on the Imperial Interdictor that served as the command ship of the series long big bad. Not only did he drop the veneer that he was just a mercenary doing this for a payday but he rallied the ships and fighters in the fleet with a rousing speech about fighting for what they all believed in; truth, honor, justice, and freedom!

From Ne'er Do Well to Noble in 12 sessions. 


Where do I even start?

Starguard (my PC) saved Pulse (our PC speedster) half a dozen times at least. Pulse saved civilians constantly. So did I. Omni (telepathic leader PC) saved everyone a least a dozen times. Tachyon overloaded his powers, preventing him from being able to use them again, in order to save New York City from the villainous Sundown!

Then there is this, wherein PC Superheroes sacrificed their lives and even the very fabric of their reality in order to defeat an enemy who threatened to destroy the infinite multiverse!

This looks like a job for being Noble!


As I've mentioned before, my own D&D universe is actually patterned after Superhero comics and features a world-spanning order of heroic individuals united to protect the innocent, the weak, the struggling, and the oppressed from harm both natural and Arcane!

Saving fishing villages from floods, defeating brigands, and battling monstrous creatures is all in a days work for The Order of the Winghorn Guard. It should be noted that while the Guard will sometimes claim treasure unaccounted for, the goods stolen by brigands are always returned to the merchants they were taken from. A portion of all gold and other coin found is donated to the people of near by towns. The Winghorn Guard members also give a portion of their findings to the Guard proper to fund their continued operations. 

My D&D is not about killing things and taking their stuff. It's about the Nobility of being a hero with a purpose. 

I am sure your game features truly good and heroic people doing truly good and heroic deeds. Like mine campaigns, your players imbue their characters with a sense of Nobility that raises them above the common riff-raff and scallywags of most gaming groups. 

At least I hope so. There is no more Noble act than Noble acts. 

Barking Alien

Monday, August 19, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - SCARY

A criticism commonly leveled at my games over the past 10 years or so...at least until recently...is that they just aren't Scary. 

I'm not talking about Horror themed games. I'm talking about all my games. Many of my players across a few groups feel I go too easy on them. They say that they never fear for their characters lives or well being. 

I will admit that I have had difficulty bringing that aspect to my games over the past decade. There are several factors that contributed to this, some of which I've discussed before, but the bottom line is I changed my style a little to accommodate less experienced players and then got stuck on 'easy mode' without even realizing I was doing so. 

Initially the idea was to make things not quite so hard, complex, or dangerous that I ended up killing off the characters of newbie players and then discouraging them from continued play. If your character dies in its very first session, before you even get to know them, the world, or anything about gaming in general, you're probably going to shrug and go play video games or watch a movie on Netflix. 

The plan was let them get their feet wet, let them look around and get into some trouble, then kill an important NPC or destroy something they owned*. Now they will see things and people are indeed breakable and watch themselves and their surroundings a bit more carefully. 

This was a mistake. 

The first problem I discovered was that I realized all too late that the group of players I had adjusted for simply weren't the same as my old group.

It wasn't that they weren't as smart, as organized, as creative, or anything of the sort. They didn't have the same skills and experience needed to effectively deal with me. My games are a tad different from the average GM I've encountered. They are more open ended, flexible, character focused, setting focused, and it takes a certain kind of player thought process to play them. Not a better player. A player who gets what I'm trying to do. 

If you have to twist in a screw you don't need the world's best hammer or most advanced wrench. You absolutely need a screwdriver though. 

The second and much bigger issue was that by going easy on them they weren't challenged to get better. There was no need to up their game (so to speak) if they weren't in any real danger. Another way to look at it is if their level of play was working up to X point, there is no real need to change. We (Humans) do not make changes from positions of comfort. If we can get by doing what we're doing we will. 

That's not how I want to be as a GM. I always want to be improving, always striving to be better at the craft. In the end I didn't just stagnate them, I stagnated myself. I couldn't be the best GM I could be if they weren't the best players they could be, but why be better if the level they were at was working just fine?

Now there is another factor that I've noticed more recently.

In the past few years I've noticed that some of the people who say my games aren't tough and Scary enough are also the ones whose PCs are unphased by anything. You know what I'm taking about. The characters who are so cool they bleed ice and laugh in the face of the 100 ft. tall, city-eating space monster. No matter how awesome the spectacle set before them, they toss a wise-crack and head right for it. 

I don't want to completely discourage that. I love that in some cases. Not every game is an Anime however and sometimes things should just freak you out. If you're PC is not freaked out it actually takes the other players and the GM out of the game a little. It's too meta. It isn't a realistic reaction to such an insane situation. Yeah, yeah, I know, your character is too cool for school but could you at least pretend to think this is serious so it makes sense in the context of the game?

Also, it is worth mentioning that buy-in and immersion are also aat play. Not being Scared your character may die may say your PC is a badass but it can also say to the GM that you don't really care about your character. It can also mean you don't understand or acknowledge the dangers the GM is presenting you with. If you act like you don't take a serious threat seriously, the GM is left to  wonder what they are doing wrong. Maybe something...or maybe nothing and you are just looking at it like a computer game. 

Yet another reason I am loving my new FRONTIER campaign is because the Scary is there. The game uses a variant of the Year Zero System which includes rules for Stress and Panic. Characters are just people, even if they're Armored Spacesuit wearing, Cybernetics using professionals. When they see crazy stuff they can potentially lose it and I love that. So do they, as it gives them great role-play opportunities.

One of my favorite moments of the first session of FRONTIER was when we realized one of the people we had rescued from a crashed starship was carrying a gun. A murder victim had been found on the crashed vessel but we hadn't located the murder weapon. Just as one PC mentions this fact over the radio, the guy with the gun slides it out of his jacket. A PC rolls to take it from his hand and succumbs to Panic. He raises his hands and shouts. "GUN!", which alerts the other PCs next to him. 

We discussed afterward the monumental moment that was in setting the tone of the game. As opposed to the numerous games where you and your party are using a bunch of weapons against a large group of enemies also using weapons and no one batting an eye, here a single guy with a gun caused a panic.Just like in real life, a gun can kill you in a single shot in this game.

In FRONTIER, alien wildlife is rare and Scary. Weapons are Scary. Falls from great heights are Scary. You are a Human being in an unknown ecosystem and nature is Scary. 

One of the things I've gotten back is my ability to Scare players. Now if I can just get certain players to see things as Scary, I'll have it made.

Barking Alien

Sunday, August 18, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - PLENTY

An interesting thing happened to me the other day that hasn't happened in a good, long while.

I was having dinner with my girlfriend and her friends and found out that two of them play Dungeons & Dragons. Pretty seriously too. They were a couple and the fellow made a D&D related joke, one only gamers would really get, so I knew they were the real deal. 

Apparently my girlfriend had told them about me and that I gamed as well. I said, "Yes I am a big RPG fan. Have been for a long time. I just don't really play Dungeons and Dragons".

To which the fellow inquired, "Oh, so more computer, video game RPGs?"

I chuckled, "No, no, definitely tabletop, just not D&D."

He seemed a little confused. "So...like Warhammer? Miniatures?"

Here were two people well versed in the Dungeons and Dragons game who were largely unaware that there were other RPGs out there. I know this is a thing but I don't recall encountering this personally since the 80s I think. Just as they must have assumed D&D is the only game of its kind, so did I assume everyone who knew there was one RPG must automatically know there are many. 

And there are...many that is. One could say...Plenty.

The fact is we live in an amazing time in which there are Plenty of RPGs not only available for purchase and even for free, but covering Plenty of different genres and styles. With the internet as a resource you can buy and download PDFs or order physical copies of an absolute plethora of games.

RPGs new and old, serious and comedic, Fantasy to Modern, Superhero to Hard SF, one-shot party games to those designed for long term play are available to virtually anyone who has access to a computer. 

Why then would people only play or even know about only one game? 

It's a strange mirror to my last post that I can barely conceive of the idea of only playing one game and yet there are those that do just that. They do it and are happy and that's both infinitely wonderful and totally bizarre to me. 

There are Plenty of games out there, ipso facto I want to play Plenty of games.

Again, as before, I use a food analogy (because I am a bit of a foodie) and try to imagine eating the same meal over and over again. As much as I love Sushi (and I do LOVE Sushi), I don't think I could eat it for dinner 7 nights a week. I would get bored of it and then probably lose interest in having it again for a long, long time. 

Part of me is saddened by the possible realization that there indeed Plenty of RPGs but that Plenty aren't being played. Plenty are probably purchased but I wonder how often they are being brought to the table instead of tried and true games like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, and a few others. 

In response, and to some up this post, go play an RPG you haven't played before. Run one you've never run. Pass on to your fellow gamers the word that Plenty of games exist and as such we should each give Plenty of them a chance. 

You may not find any you like more than the one(s) you are currently playing. On the other hand you may find...Plenty.

Barking Alien

Saturday, August 17, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - ONE


One is the loneliest number.

If there can be only One, it should be One in a million. One singular sensation.

Most of all, the One that you want. 

Let's go with the old, 'If you were stuck on a desert island with only One RPG, what would you want it to be'? Basically, if you could only play One game for the rest of your life, what is that game?


One game?! It's hard for me to picture myself not going bonkers with access to only One game. My personal opinion and outlook on the hobby is that each RPG should support a setting, genre, or style of play and therefore no one game can be the perfect game for every situation. 

It's not that I don't believe in the idea of generic or multi-genre systems. I have certainly run Hero System for more than Champions and used systems for subjects they weren't specifically designed for. At the same time, my preference is that the mechanics fit the game and the game the mechanics. I don't like it when my fluff and crunch feel like two separate things that aren't meshing together. 

Still, if I only have One RPG at my disposal, shouldn't it be a game that can do a variety of genres and setting decently well?

By my own logic and reasoning, I would choose One game that could do many things or at least most of the many things I would want to use it for. In other words, if I were stuck with but a single system, I would want it to be a system that could run Star Trek, Star Wars, other Spacefaring Sci-Fi, Superheroes, and maybe Giant Robots. So...some variant of the Interlock System by R. Talsorian Games? Mekton perhaps or Teenagers from Outer Space?

The other approach to this is to choose One's favorite game. If I am only able to play One RPG, why not have it be the RPG I love the most. Well friends and fans, that ain't so easy when you're Adam 'Barking Alien' Dickstein. 

I love Pork Ramen, especially if it's spicy, but I can't eat it every day. Nor could I eat Tacos every day and damn if they aren't a favorite as well. I'm just not wired that way. I want, nay need, variety. 

My favorite RPG at present is, well, ugh, that's another thing that makes this tough. I can't really decide. I am loving the Year Zero system variant I am using for my FRONTIER Sci-Fi campaign, but I am also having a blast with Modiphius Entertainment's Star Trek Adventures. Star Wars D6 by West End Games remains my all time fave rules wise of course, at least for the time being. 

In the end, I can't really decide. One of these, One thing will lead to another, and I'll give it One more try. 

Oh well. Another One bites the dust.

Barking Alien

Friday, August 16, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - DREAM

Dream, huh?

Seriously? This is what I was referring to in my last post. Dream is so broad, so generic, and just so over used a word that it isn't really all that interesting. It could be, even should be, but it's heard so often as to become banal even as it implies aspects of thought, hope, aspiration, and imagination.

I Dream that the word prompts get a little more exciting.

The only thing I can think of at this point for Dream is describing my Dream game. 

You may have seen me tackle this before on my blog as the subject of one's Dream game has come up in the past, perhaps even several times. The thing of it is, one's Dream game can change and therefore it's worth considering again from time to time. 

A Dream game can go as far as being truly a Dream, with unrealistic parameters and criteria that one could never achieve. For example, I could Dream up the perfect Star Trek campaign and include my late, much loved friend Allen, but that is a game that will never come to pass. Incidentally, I miss that guy something fierce. 

Being more realistic in my Dreaming, what game would I run now, that I could run now, if I could run it?

Funny, I feel like I am currently running one of my Dream games. 

My Science Fiction/Horror Space Adventure FRONTIER, which has had but two sessions so far, is a game I've wanted to do for over 30 years. More accurately I've been thinking up ideas related to the concept for 30 plus years. 

In addition to the premise - A group of Scientists and Engineers on a distant Space Station working on Scientific Breakthroughs to save a Dying Earth - I have gathered what is turning out to be a near-perfect cast. A diverse group of smart players with quirk but believable characters who interact well and are immersed in the universe. If that isn't your Dream team what is, right?

Back to my Dream game...I really don't know. I am really happy with FRONTIER, content with Star Trek and Champions campaigns, and while I am looking to do one more, I don't feel like it qualifies as a Dream game. I view my next project, whatever it is, as 'What is the most I can get out of what I've got to work with'? If I can make that happen, I will be very happy. 

Maybe someday I will have an itch to run the perfect game, with the perfect group, and when the concept comes to me I'll definitely want to share it with all of you.

A fellow can Dream can't he? 

Barking Alien

Thursday, August 15, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - DOOR


Maybe it's Challenge Fatigue, maybe it's my busy Real Life and offline Gaming Life, but I am finding the last few words less than inspiring. As I am trying to write posts based on the first thing the prompt word brings to mind I am stymied. Nothing immediately comes to mind with Guide, Door, and a few of the next ones. 

Personally I think my first posts for this year's RPGaDay event were darn good. I apologize if the next few are not up to par. I'm trying to do my best. I'm sure one I get past the week I'll be back on track. 

The only thing that pops into my head when I see the word Door is my old Door Test. 

In a nutshell, I used to think that I could tell whether or not a potential player would fit with my group and my GMing style just by giving them a little test. It went something like this...

I would say, "You walk down the rough, stone corridor of an ancient, underground dungeon. You come to a wooden door on the left side wall that is open just a tiny crack. From out in the corridor you can see a large, armored person in a long cloak looking at a glowing gem. The gem is about twice the size of a Human fist. It is floating five feet off the ground. It glows with a violet light, crackling periodically with pale pink electricity. 

What do you do?"

If the participant asks how big the door is, how far the door is open, what they themselves are carrying, what they can do, or anything like that, I am going to answer but mark a mental X. If they're first question is followed by yet another similar question, more strikes are marked until the buzzer sounds and the person is politely informed we're going a different way. 

Worse yet would be anyone who asks the same questions but needing exacting measurements or questioning what type of door it is. This people are excused immediately and likely security will be summoned to see them out. 

So what passes? Not only will I tell you, I'll tell you what passed with flying colors...

"I kick open the door, level my long sword at the armored fiend and call out, 'Foul Villain! Release the Heart of Vel'Var'Vos or be destroyed!"

"I draw my sword, pull up my hood to hide my face, and open the door. I say in a deep voice, "M'Lord! Thieves have entered the dungeon. Get to safety. I will protect the gem. I swear to guard it with my life!' (guy's eyes dart back and forth suspiciously)"

"Um...Can I take it? (said in a cute, upbeat voice)" Are you asking me or...the armored person? "I...I just take it. He won't mind." LOL

Basically, if you can fall right into it, invest, commit, get creative, yet also work with what you're given, you are very likely gonna fit right it. 

I haven't used this 'test' in a long time. It isn't scientific by any means and doesn't take a lot of other factors into consideration that might give someone who seems otherwise incompatible a fighting chance.

Still and all, it worked. It never steered me wrong. Not once. 

If you had a similar test let know. If you had a different approach to vetting new players, what was it? I am eager to find out. My Door is always open. 

Barking Alien

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - GUIDE

Approaching this one as I have the others so far, 'Word Prompt via Word Association', is proving to be tricky. Nothing in really comes to mind. I wish I had someone or something, like a more experienced blogger or a manual, that could lead me in a particular direction. You know like a...wait a minute...

A Guide is a generally a person or book that directs you to a place or through a task. A Guide helps you accomplish something that would otherwise be difficult to do on your own. A model kit's painting Guide tells you the correct colors to use and where they go on the model. A tour Guide takes you along a path and shows you all the famous sites of a city or other famous location. 

These are great if you want to paint the model 'accurately' to match it's real world appearance or see the parts of a place you're visiting that you know already know from the brochures. 

What if you want a custom paint job? What if you want to eat where the locals eat in the cool neighborhoods the tourists done know about? Is there a Guide for that? If so, that's the Guide I want to hire. 

I am not much for Guides you see. Not really. I prefer to figure things out on my own. Give me the tools, maybe some suggestions, and I will figure it out. I don't mind help, it's not about pride or ego but rather I learn better by doing. I want to develop my own view points, my own opinions, and my own style. 

The rulebooks give you the rules and tell you how to play, and sure my first GM helped but he was younger than me and just as new at the hobby. His first game was mine as well. His older brother helped him understand the rules but didn't really 'Guide' him. We, he, the other players, and I developed our comprehension of the RPGing together. This is why, to this day, my style in the little different from the norm. 

My Guidance to others is this, let your conscience, creativity, and dedication be your Guide. 

Barking Alien 

Tuesday, August 13, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - MYSTERY

For me it's all about the Mystery.

I view a good Mystery as the key to a solid Role Playing Game experience, which can be problematic, as I don't think many gamers are great at Mysteries.

The result of this unfortunate situation is frustration as both a GM and player; running a game for a group of people who aren't great with deductive reasoning or being a player in a session where the GM has made the conundrum completely inscrutable. 

Mysteries really aren't hard to construct but they can be hard to solve if you forget the number one, most important thing about them - you want them to be solved. The player wants to solve it so they can feel a sense of accomplishment. The GM wants it solved so their campaign and progress and the story can continue forward. Most importantly, think about what happens if it isn't solved. Often the answer is nothing. Nothing happens. The game can grind to a halt.

Gamemasters, please don't lock yourself in to one and only one possibly outcome of an investigation unless you are going to leave ample clues as to what is going on, how it's happening, and why. 

Players, be sure to investigate. Don't just roll your 'Detective' skill or similar ability and hope the GM hands you all the answers. Be inquisitive. Have your PC look around, check inside desks, in closets, behind furniture. Have them talk to witnesses, locals, and experts in the appropriate field. Become involved in the Mystery and active in the solving of it. 

You can click on the label/tag 'Mystery' attached to this post to see my previous discussions on the subject. I am pretty happy with those so I don't feel I need to go over the whole thing again here. Suffice to say, most Action/Adventure books, movies, TV shows, and the like have Mysteries, and your game should as well. Like the sources it draws from, the best part of the Mystery is the reveal. Do what you can to make that possible. 

Why you would do it any other way is...A Mystery.

Barking Alien

Monday, August 12, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - FRIENDSHIP

Gaming spawns Friendships. It builds Friendships. It keeps Friendships going. 

Practically all of the Friendships I currently have I have through gaming. 

Even with those people whom I met or knew before I gamed with them, gaming factored in in some way.

Some of those Friendships are with 'Gaming Friends'; friends I only see or have contact with at games. We don't necessarily hang out outside of our gaming group or get together except around a gaming table. At the same token, I see some of them rather often since we have regular, weekly games. That's more often than I see other friends I once had a stronger Friendship with but who I see less often due to time, distance, and responsibilities. 

Some of the Friendships were forged in grade school and while we don't game together any longer (as a matter of fact, they don't game at all any more), we share fond memories of all those great games of the past.

I have Friendships from high school that have managed to overcome distance and time and every once in a while we get together for game for old times sake and because we love to game with each other. 

My current groups are a mix of very old friends, friends from the last 5-10 years, and a new one now and then. It is a common phenomenon that as we get older we make fewer new friends. Judging only from myself I would say gamers skew this a bit. We are always discovering new friends and new Friendships through gaming. 

Friend: "Hey Adam, this is my friend and his friend. I just met his friend, but my friend and I go way back. She's a gamer!"

Friend's Friend: "My friend is a gamer too!"

Friend's Friend's Friend: "I love gaming. My favorite game is one you really like!"

Me: "Wow! I just met two new gamers whom I didn't know this morning. We both really like at least one game in common! Let's be friends!"

I didn't meet my ex-wife through gaming (that was the result of Anime!) but I taught her to play and now she loves it. I believe she still owns more dice than I do (or possibly ever did). 

I met my girlfriend through gaming when a mutual friend suggested she try it. The first time we met was the first RPG she ever played. She is no where near as serious about it as I am but she appreciates how important it is to me. That's beyond Friendship. That's Love.

Make some Friendships. Spread the Love.

Barking Alien

Sunday, August 11, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - EXAMINE

Hmmm. Let's Examine 'Examine', shall we?

When one Examines something (or someone) they 'inspect it in detail to determine its nature or condition'. Examine means to 'investigate thoroughly'. 

I think one of the things that makes my games (and some have said this blog) special and different is the way I Examine my campaigns, my players, and myself.

After over 40 years of gaming, primarily as a GM, I still take nothing for granted. I firmly believe that every game I run or play that works, or doesn't, has reasons why. If I can figure out what those reasons are I can, at least theoretically, improve my craft. To that end I put a lot of thought into my sessions before them and afterward.

I Examine the plot, pacing, art used, likely player choices and the outcomes of PCs actions before going in, running the scenarios' particulars over and over in my mind. I never read from a script or 'box text' of any kind, but I will practice how I am going to open an adventure many times before game day.

For example, for the second session of my new ongoing Science Fiction/Horror campaign FRONTIER I memorized the first few verses of the song Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd. I noticed the words matched the situation and conditions at the end of our first session and decided to sing the song to begin the second one, the lines interspersed with a minor recap of how the 'pilot episode' ended. 

After the session was over I thanked everyone for participating and listened as they discussed, with me and with each other, their favorite moments. When I mentioned my surprise at one PC's decision to forego direct action in favor of being 'the guy in the chair', he explained his reasoning and how this character was not the same as some of his previous, more dynamic PCs. Absorbing all of this and processing it I now know what worked and what might need a different approach in the future. 

If Gamemastering is both an art and a science I will say that I surely apply the Scientific Method to my games. I ask myself the question of what a scenario or session needs to make it work. I then do my research on anything related to making it happen. Finally I construct a hypothetically model of how it will go, keeping in mind numerous alternative options should things not go as I foresee. Then I run the game, which serves as the experiment. When it's over I gather data on the experiment, analyze the data, and troubleshoot the process. 

Remember that I listed myself among the components that need to be Examined for a game to be successful. I certainly do.

Barking Alien

Saturday, August 10, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - FOCUS

To Focus on Focus requires me to commit to a considerable amount of Focus.

You see, in my case Focus can be extremely difficult, except of course when it is all I can do.

If you are a little confused I completely understand. Please though, try to Focus.

Like my father, I suffer benefit from a condition known as Hyper-Focus. It is one side effect of larger issue and goes hand in hand with it's sister side effect ADD, or Attention Deficit Disorder.

Basically I switch between two modes - Unable to concentrate on any one thing for a great length of time or unable to do anything but concentrate on one thing for a great length of time. 

After many years of suffering through this (as well as the other side effects of the main issue) I decided to seek help and now manage it with regular medication, more sleep, a slightly different diet, and regular check ups on how I'm doing. 

Every once in a while the problems of being unable to Focus or being Hyper-Focused do pop up and (in addition to updating my doctor) I try to make the best of those instances, which can last anywhere from a couple of days to a week or so. 

When un-Focused, I try to pay closer attention to and stay update with tasks like walking my dog at the same time every day, eating at the same time, my work schedule, and other things with simple, regular, daily patterns. Have a routine really helps. 

When Hyper-Focused I use the opportunity to work on personal projects that make me happy and relieve stress. It is during those times that I get the most done on one, singular task. So in the past I have used those phases to build model kits, draw illustrations, or work on RPG campaigns. 

I am very productive during times of Hyper-Focus. I will read something until I completely comprehend it instead of getting frustrated with it and putting it down to review later. I can make maps, write up the map keys, make notes on all of the places on the maps, and print and mount them properly if need be. 

After living with this for so long and now having it under control, I can recognize the signs before they get me frustrated and down. I can use what I know about how my brain works even when it isn't working perfectly.

It's a far cry from the years of frustration I felt wondering what the heck was wrong with me. Why wasn't I like everyone else? Why does my head think of a thousand things a second or only one thing, ignoring virtually everything else going on?

Well now I know. Now I can manage it instead of it managing me. It brings me a much greater sense of clarity and dare I say...Focus.

Barking Alien

Friday, August 9, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - CRITICAL

When it comes to games, I can be Critical. 

More so than in any other aspect of my life, I am particularly driven to analyze the positive and negative aspects of RPGs; how they're written, illustrated, produced, run, and played. 

While I always give credit where credit is due and I'm overjoyed to point out what works and what gamers and designers have done right, I can be equally zealous in describing what might be wrong [in my opinion]. 

I can be harsh. I have, in the past, been rather scathing on more than one occasion. It was never my intention to hurt anyone's feelings but feelings were hurt nonetheless. I definitely wish I hadn't been so tough with certain GMs and players who may have been more sensitive to my style of criticism than I realized. I do apologize.

I take nothing back though. I never said anything I didn't mean. However, perhaps I should be clear why I meant what I said. It's because I care. I have a real passion for this hobby. I absolutely love it and I work really hard to make sure I put together the best possible game I can. I do this by taking a long, hard look at the systems, participants, and any and all other factors that I think might contribute to it's success. 

When I see a player or Gamemaster do great things I am exhilarated. When I see people capable of great things do mediocre things, or weak things, or make it difficult for me to do my best, I am going to tell them. I am not going to sugar coat it, or dance around it, as I don't think that's fair to them, their fellow gamers, myself, or the game. 

Trust me when I say that if I have ever been rough on you, your game, or anything about your approach to the hobby, you have gotten off easily. I am ten times more Critical with myself than I am with anyone else or their work. Anyone who has gamed with me for any solid length of time knows no one is more Critical of me than me. 

Sure, I probably shouldn't be so hard on myself. I should give me a break and go a little easier on me. Well that's not going to happen. I have vowed to go easier on everyone else as no one should have to live up to the crazy high standards I set for myself. However, my standards remain in place. 

I may be Critical, but for me, Critical works. It's the difference between a Critical Hit, and a Critical Failure.

Barking Alien

Thursday, August 8, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - OBSCURE

Oh how I love the Obscure.

That which is Obscure is defined as relatively unknown and there are few things I like better than the relatively unknown. 

I am not sure what draws me to the rarely seen, the oft forgotten, and the tragically overlooked, but there is definitely a warm place in my heart for the Obscure.

Whether it's little known Superheroes of the Golden Age of Comics or Japanese Role-Playing Games that never made it to the States, I absolutely revel in those bits of creative splendor the rest of the world seems to have tossed aside or simply failed to pay attention to the first time around.

I like to think of myself as a fairly smart and knowledge fellow within the circles that interest me. I am well aware I am not the smartest or most knowledge but I do try to do my research, ask questions, and stay informed. To this end I have dived down many a rabbit hole while looking for information on a particular folk tale, place in the world, or moment in history that has led me to some very strange and fascinating morsels of trivia. 

I am not the prideful sort but do find some personal satisfaction in knowing the history of how National Comics and All-American Comic became DC Comics in 1977. I like Osamu Tezuka's famed character 'The Mighty Atom', known in the United States as 'Astro Boy', but not nearly as much as his other creation, 'Jetter Mars'. If you've never heard of Jetter Mars, that's OK by me. I have and I enjoyed this fill-in for Mighty Atom who developed a personality and identity all his own.

One benefit of collecting and consuming the Obscure is that when I borrow from it, my games appear more original. 

If I do a riff on a famous and well-received movie in one of my games, it will be obvious where I got my idea from. Copy the concepts of a Star Trek episode, a film like The Godfather or The Predator, and a table of players will be saying, 'Hey, you stole that from...'. Guaranteed.

On the other hand, I recently took an idea from the Stanislaw Lem SF novel Solaris and combined it with one element of Wayne Douglas Barlowe's book Expedition to create a gelatinous life form for a session of my ongoing Star Trek campaign. The encounter went over extremely well and I was applauded for the strange and unusual colony creature I'd developed. Afterwards I remarked that part of the idea was indeed from Expedition, as seen in the Discovery Channel adaption, Alien Planet. People had seen that, though quite a while ago. I gambled that the players probably hadn't seen it recently, hadn't read the book, and weren't immediately familiar with Lem's novel.

Like I am.

For you see, I just have this itch to look left when everyone is looking right, to ask who that character in the background of that one scene is, to rifle through the out-of-print paperbacks of old bookstores, and wonder why this particular flotsam of creativity was cast adrift, floating aimlessly to be discovered by me, treasurer of the Obscure.

Barking Alien

Wednesday, August 7, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - FAMILIAR

I have a love/hate relationship with the Familiar.

We're definitely frenemies. Good frenemies though. Maybe more than just frenemies. Frenelovers? It's complicated.

I tend to prefer running games based on well known IPs, franchises Familiar to many gamers, a number of which have (or have had) licensed RPGs based on said franchises. Star Trek, Star Wars, DC and Marvel Comics, Ghostbusters, and now the upcoming Alien RPG have all been developed into published RPGs, and that's just to name a few. 

Part of the reason for this, beyond my love of these respective franchises, is the Familiarity; it's easy for all of the participants of a favorite IP game to understand what is expected of them and imagine the universe they're in.

If a group of players and a GM love Star Wars and decide to play a Star Wars campaign, no one is stopping the game to look up Lightsabers, X-Wings, or Wookiees in the rulebook. If they know Star Wars they know what those things are. 

On the flip side, I also love the unFamiliar. Not only do I really enjoy trying out new systems and playing in genres or settings I may not have tackled in the past, but I also love adding new and unFamiliar elements to the otherwise Familiar aforementioned licensed games. 

The fun of playing in a universe or setting you are Familiar with is getting to use well known equipment, species, vehicles, or whathaveyou, and then pitting them against foes and situation both old and new. It is your chance to add your own content to an established milieu and that's pretty awesome. Short of getting a job with the company that owns your favorite franchise, this is your opportunity to make your mark on it. 

I feel lucky to be Familiar with a great many pop culture franchises, as well as many comic book characters, TV shows, movies, games, and Anime/Manga series. I have a lot to draw on, though I sometimes find it difficult these day to make full use of my repertoire of knowledge. A good number of the people I game with are sadly less Familiar with some of my favorite subjects, narrowing my capacity to run the multitude of setting I know I could run.

It seems we are not all Familiar with the same things. 

Granted, some of my favorite things are...

Barking Alien

Tuesday, August 6, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - ANCIENT

I like old things.

Old songs, movies and TV shows, comic books...I have a lot of respect for works that stand the test of time. Such things generate in me feelings of admiration, nostalgia, and sometimes even a sense of heartwarming familiarity. 

Ancient is something else entirely. 

There is great weight and great majesty to Ancient.

It is old beyond most people's casual understanding of just how old we're talking about. 

Ancient implies a mystery derived from knowledge that has been lost and not necessarily hidden.

Ancient is a puzzle whose clues are also puzzles.

Ancient places things very far away from us. Time becomes distance. The time and place when and where Ancient occurred no longer exists. Only the shadows of that world remain. 

Old is comforting. Ancient can be scary. 

Barking Alien

Monday, August 5, 2019

RPGaDay Challenge 2019 - SPACE

Space?!? Seriously? You want me to write something about Space? Muhuwahahaha! I thought you'd never ask!

Let's see. What's the first thing I think of when I think of Space. Well there's always...

This is an image of the Observable Universe.

This is a map of all the Exoplanets NASA has cataloged as of this post. The number is 4003. Yes. Four thousand and three planets have been observed orbiting stars others than our own.

Is that not the coolest thing you have ever conceived of? These aren't made up worlds. They're not from Science Fiction. There are PLANETS BEYOND OUR SOLAR SYSTEM and WE CAN SEE THEM! *Squee*

Ever since I was a very young child I have been absolutely fascinated with and inspired by Outer Space. I had a telescope way back when and I would spend a few hours each night looking at the stars. I lived in Brooklyn, New York and you really couldn't see all that much due to smog and the eternal glow of New York. At the same time, every tiny pin-prick of light in the endless black sheet of night was a catalyst for my imagination and a glimmer of hope that 'we are not alone'. 

I would constantly stare at some random star and wonder if there was a young being looking back at our Sun just as I looked at theirs and thinking, as I did, 'Is there anybody out there?'

Space Adventure Science Fiction is by far my favorite subject/genre for running Role-Playing Games. Whether it's a unified alliance of species banded together to explore the unknown reaches of the cosmos or a ragtag band of rebels trying to overthrow the tyranny of a galaxy spanning empire, I can guarantee that's where my head, heart, and dare I say spirit can be found.

The very idea of an infinite void that is not a void at all but filled with stars, planets, asteroids, comets, radiation, and potentially life propels my creativity far more than Fantasy ever could. Always in the back of my mind there is the knowledge that dragons are not real, magic is impossible, but Space...Space exists, as do all the things within it.

From the horror of Alien to the comedy of Galaxy Quest, the social commentary of Star Trek to the classic star-spanning action of Lensman or Valerian and Laureline, Space is the ultimate place to find adventure. 

Over the past 42 years I've run and played dozens upon dozens of RPGs set in Space. In addition to IP games based on some of the franchises I've mentioned, I have had successful games set in the universes of Traveller, Space Opera, and Star Frontiers, as well as numerous settings of my own design. 

Currently I am running a Star Trek campaign set in the era of The Original Series (now in it's fourth year) and FRONTIER, a hard Sci-Fi meets horror game I've been developing for about 30 years. 

I have other Space game ideas. I will always have other space game ideas.

After all, it's the final frontier.

Barking Alien